For the last few months, I’ve been working on a mobile app from the ground up. A stand-alone, paid iOS app. For children. It’s been quite a journey for this former kids’ book editor turned digital content strategist, and I’ve just started to process everything that has had to happen — the project pieces flew at me fast and quick and curvy.
A few colleagues have asked me to explain what going mobile entails and how it will affect writers, editors, and content strategists. Here’s my first attempt.
What’s a Mobile App, Anyway?
When business people talk about wanting to go mobile, it can mean many things: a mobile friendly website, a mobile version of a website, a productivity app for the enterprise, a paid consumer app, a free branded app, a free app with ads. What am I missing? I’m sure there’s more. The point is, you should know which kind you need.
In my case, I created a stand-alone iOS app for iPad and iPhone. It’s a single downloadable app, but it stands as a platform for additional book apps. Determining which platform to use requires a strategy all its own.
The Mobile Content Strategy
The foundation of a mobile content strategy is the same as a web content strategy … you still need to solve a problem for customers, support business goals and objectives, and plan for ongoing content needs. You still need to set up the analytics and measure results.
With mobile, consider this:
- Icons mean more when you have less space and no text (or alt text) to describe them.
- The connection between images, text, and meaning are so much tighter; tight editing across different types of content is absolutely needed.
- The user is not limited to clicking; you can swipe, tap, pinch, shake, blow, speak, tap and hold — pretty much anything you can think of can be an interaction. User experience content is more important than ever.
- You don’t have to work within a rectangular, scrollable page. The view can have appendages like an octopus. Or go up and down and side to side. It can zoom deeper and deeper into tiered content. It changes shape and colors, but always needs to spring back to its octopus shape. You don’t want to lose your reader.
- The aspect ratio of the screen keeps changing.
- Sound is a big player in mobile, much more so than web. It has become primary content.
- Elements of an image can be interactive, expanding on content exponentially.
- Users are at various levels of device sophistication. “Above the fold” has new meaning. In this world, many people don’t know that “scrolling” or exploring through touching the screen is even available, so the first view is even more important.
The tools for editing or providing content recommendations are changing. For so long, the only thing a web writer or editor would need is a computer, Internet connection, and word processing software. Now, mobile agencies and mobile app developers are using mobile based tools to share work in staging environments. You need the primary device that the mobile app is being designed for and be comfortable with frequent changes to content.
Multiple Uses and Outside Influence
It’s well known that a website should have “sticky” content that attracts and keeps people engaged — much of content strategy is focused on how to do that. It’s even more important with a downloadable mobile app. People download a lot of apps, but the majority are only opened once. To encourage stickiness, the app must have multiple use appeal and be supported by outside (the app) content.
I’m calling the app I’m working on an “interactive children’s book app,” because that best describes it. But SEO research shows that is absolutely not a popular phrase, so I’ve needed to adjust content appropriately, while still educating the user about the best terminology. Research on definitions and connotations within mobile content is even more important.
So, these thoughts are just top of mind — there are so many moving parts to a mobile app. Have a specific question? Please feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer it.
Need more info? Check out Karen McGrane’s book Content Strategy for Mobile.