Best Practices for Mobile Web Writing

Angie King

Writing for the mobile web is a newish discipline. But this noob draws on an old standby: the inverted pyramid.

Dig that old nugget out from your J-school files. Already, you’re halfway there to understanding mobile web writing best practices. Simple.

Here are a few other mobile web writing guidelines that embody their own basic principles: short and sweet.

Give them what they want

On-the-go users are looking for specific, task-based info. Provide that first. Give them the option to get additional details later.

Cut the fat

Get rid of information not relevant to the task-at-hand. This includes advertising, teasers, and happy talk.

Make every word count

Write concisely. Alternate short and long sentences for a good reading rhythm.

Break up content

Use multiple paragraphs. Love your line breaks.

Don’t be afraid of the single sentence paragraph.

Maximize heads and subheads

Use headlines to provide context. Clearly spell out the subject matter.

See it on the small screen

While phone formats vary, all of them have one thing in common: small screens.

Visualize your content on the small screen. Use a mobile web emulator to see how your site stacks up right now. It’s eye-opening.

Simplify page layouts

Use a single column for text. Eliminate or minimize images. Don’t use Flash. All of these things complicate content display on mobile web devices.

Provide easy navigation

Use simple way-finding techniques to help users navigate and orient themselves. Don’t rely on left or top navigations. Don’t embed links in graphics. All of this gets in the way of the content your users really want.

Consider going mobile 

If many users access your site via the mobile web, consider making a mobile-only version. Your regular website can keep some of the flashier features. Put just the basic information most accessed by users-on-the-go on your mobile site.

Resources & Related Material

Writing for the web, writing for the mobile web

Mobile Web Best Practices/Page Content—W3C Recommendations

Writing a PDA Friendly Web Site—About.com