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Review and Notes: Content Strategy for Mobile by Karen McGrane

I've just finished reading A Book Apart's latest: Content Strategy for Mobile by Karen McGrane. The book is full of great advice, and the messages rang very true for me. I highly recommend picking up a copy. Below are some of my notes from the book.

While a lot of it is fresh, parts of it also feel a little like a greatest hits mashup of Mobile First and The Elements of Content Strategy, with a bit of Responsive Web Design thrown in. This makes a lot of sense to me, since we're seeing things like Content Strategy, User Experience, and security being pulled into each step of the development process, rather than being discrete, separate, stages as they've been before. Some of the themes in the book were also familiar territory (such as chunks of content, not blobs), having been brought up at the recent CS Forum 2012.


McGrane, like many others, uses Mobile as a shorthand for non-desktop devices. (Mobile) Smartphones are the most widely known and used device, so they're a good starting point and a useful catalyst for making changes. We can use mobile to improve all of our content, for every platform.

We shouldn't forget that mobile still feels new to many people, and we need to educate (using best practise examples) and make recommendations (using the appropriate lens for the person we're talking to). User research can be very persuasive in motivating the changes we need.

All our content, everywhere

We should be aiming for content parity across all devices. The content doesn't need to be identical, but it should be equivalent. Doing this supports business goals: we push all our information to everyone that wants it. Content on mobile doesn't have to be short, but it does have to be easy to move around in, or to show/hide as needed. People tend to scan more than they read on the web. This is true for mobile users as well as desktop users, but you have to work harder to earn mobile users' attention.

If people want to do something on the web, they will want to do it on their mobile device. Statistics are showing that people on mobile aren't just interested in task-based functionality or location-based services: they like reading, researching, and consuming content too. They want to do this on the device that's most convenient to them. Phones are ubiquitous across all demographics, and people across the world are increasingly becoming mobile-only web users. People move between devices and their preference is increasingly for a non-desktop device.

When performing a content audit, we can use mobile as a lens to focus more sharply on items such as chunk size, use of jargon, succinctness, usefulness.

Adaptive Content

The key idea is to be producing adaptive content: discrete chunks of presentation-independant content, with meaningful metadata, that can be flexibly published (sorted, filtered, prioritised, combined, re-used) to multiple channels. Our content will be going to platforms we control, and those we don't, such as social media and search engine results.

We need to write content packages, not pages: chunks of content, ready for combining in multiple content structures using tailored presentation for each context.