I recently had the privilege of attending the An Event Apart conference in Washington, DC. Throughout the three days, there was one overarching theme: We need to be thinking about mobile. While I came into the conference expecting to gain a better understanding of Responsive Web Design (RWD), I came out of it with an even better appreciation for how we should approach mobile, content strategy, and their relationship to one another.
Mobile doesn’t mean a smaller screen – it’s simply another medium. Instead of trying to make content fit on mobile devices, we should be focusing on the content itself. Just because it’s displayed on a smaller screen, doesn’t mean we have to limit the content or lessen the user experience. In the US, more than half of mobile consumers access the Internet via their mobile devices; for some, a mobile device is the Internet. “[By omitting content] we’re treating mobile consumers as second-class citizens,” said Karen McGrane, Managing Partner at Bond Art + Science.
McGrane’s talk really struck a chord with me – we’ve been approaching mobile the wrong way. Before we even begin to think about components and layout, we need to consider our mobile content strategy. If we’re taking out content for mobile, then why was it there in the first place? A mobile-first approach forces us to re-evaluate our content and focus on what’s best for our users.
We’ve reached a point with technology where we no longer get to decide which device people use to access our content. This is precisely why we need to make our content better. If our content is great, it will transcend platforms.
When we create content, we shouldn’t be thinking about it living on a single platform; instead, we need to think of it as something independent that can be used in different ways (through APIs, etc.). The focus shouldn’t be on the final output, rather on its accessibility. Separating the presentation-layer from the content-layer will be difficult, but it’s a way of thinking we should all be adopting now. Only after doing so should we start thinking about design as an enhancement to the content.
To bring this method to an organization, the people and processes will have to change. Having separate mobile and desktop teams is the wrong approach as it creates an unnecessary divide. We need to have the entire team on the same page and work with the goal of bringing great content and experiences to all of our users. Luckily, there hasn’t been a better time than now to fix our processes and workflow.
In the words of McGrane, “We need to start doing mobile right, right from the start.”