"F for fast." That's the provocative opening for this fascinating article describing how people read web content. The article describes an F-shaped reading pattern revealed by an eye-tracking study which rendered reading patterns in eye-tracking heat maps. The article continues: "That's how users read your content. In a few seconds, their eyes move at amazing speeds across your website's words in a pattern that's very different from what you learned in school."
Readers first read horizontally across the upper content area before they read down the page a bit. Then they read in a second horizontal move that usually covers a shorter content area than the first horizontal scan. Finally, readers move on down the page to scan the content on the left side.
Reading on mobile is slightly different, of course, but there are similar insights into how readers consume content on smaller screens.
This same article offers a half dozen tips for effective mobile copy which are shared in this post. This advice is timely because given the growing dependence on mobile, there is—or should be—new urgency for optimizing your content for small devices.
6 Tips for Effective Mobile Copy
1. Leverage the "Golden Triangle."
Eye-tracking studies continually show that mobile users view content in a "Golden Triangle" pattern, starting from the top left of the page, moving down and left and back up again. In other words, it's a good idea to put your most relevant content on the top.
"Mobile users spend 68% of their time and attention in the center and top half of the mobile screen, and 86% of their time in the upper two-thirds of the screen. Anything beneath this point on the mobile screen is deemed less important, so any key messages below may be lost or ignored altogether."
2. Say a lot with a little.
In other words, maximize the information you share, but minimize the words you use to do so.
No fluff. Every word has to carry its own weight.
3. Grab attention with riveting headlines.
Mobile audiences are on the move. If you don't connect in a couple of seconds, you've lost the chance.
Be relevant, descriptive—and brief. Try for 65-70 characters. Unsure of what makes up a great headline? It's okay, everyone's been there. Try using a free tool like CoSchedule's Free Headline Analyzer. Not only will it give you a headline score, but show you how and what to optimize to create your best headline.
4. Start strong and finish the same.
Build strong introductions and wrap up with engaging summaries.
No room in mobile for windy warm-ups, and mobile audiences don't want or need you to "set the stage." Just get in and get out.
5. Show and tell.
Leverage the image capabilities of mobile devices. Complement your text with compelling images and graphics. Studies of usage patterns of Twitter and StumbleUpon reflect significantly higher rates of sharing when text is supplemented with images.
6. Leverage lists and links.
Lists and links are the lifelines of an effective mobile story. Mobile readers love lists, because lists are:
- Succinct and easy to read
- Clearly show the reader where one point ends and another begins
- Ideal for scanning or browsing
The article discusses how many people—especially mobile users—scan over the article before they read to ensure it's worth their time. In addition, mobile readers want accurate content and will "question an author's credibility if any embedded links do not relate to the topic." That means it's key to double-check your links before publication to make certain they are both relevant and functional.
So there you are—a handful of useful tips you can begin using with your next mobile writing project. There is probably no better proving ground for "less is more" than the mobile landscape.
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