Perhaps the greatest challenge content producers and marketers face today is how to protect their content from the rapid pace of technological change that’s transforming our world.
Just when you thought you had your marketing strategies set in stone, and you’ve finally got your content optimized for smart phones, reports of the development of Google Glass and several smart watches–all considered to be potential smartphone killers–go viral.
Unfortunately, you did not plan your content for the 1.5-inch smart watch screen. And as you read this sentence, hundreds of yet-to-be-named dot-coms and pieces of hardware are in development that will upstage the iPhone and iPad and every other smartphone and tablet known to humankind. And there is a strong likelihood that the content you’re creating today will be unreadable on the devices du jour on the day Obama re-enters civilian life.
The question is not, to steal a phrase from Sara Wachter-Boettcher, “Should I future-proof my content now?” or, to echo Nassim Taleb, “Should I make my content antifragile?” Rather, the question is, “How should I protect my future from the ‘black swans’ of tomorrow’s ‘disruptive technologies’?”
Responsive Design: A Future-Proof Design Solution
Our recent interview with web designer Brian Casel touched upon the concept of responsive design, a web design solution that scales a web page according to the device that’s visiting it. This graphic offers a neat visual of how this approach works.
While responsive design goes a long way to meet the mobile-desktop challenge by giving you a way to offer a full content experience for today’s mobile devices, as well as future devices, a significant shortcoming is that you lose the ability to prioritize your content. As the site scales to fit your screen, the content that sits on top of the page for a desktop user–the “buy now” button or the page’s primary call to action, for instance–may be pushed below the fold for a small-screen user. This lack of design control will have a significant impact on conversion.
And just as importantly, responsive design effectively assumes that all web visitors are equal; that mobile and smart watch users will want the same content experience as desktop and tablet users.
I would argue from a product content perspective–and from most content perspectives–that device users are not (and will not) be equal; that mobile users are generally looking for quick and instant gratification, and that offering them the option of both “at-a-glance” content, as well as the complete content, will optimize your conversion.
Only by tagging your content at its production can you do this.
How Amazon Renders Content for Mobile Users
Let’s take a look at an Amazon A+ page for the SanDisk 2GB SD Flash Memory Card as an example of a less-than-optimal approach to this conundrum.
From the leisure of a couch or cubicle, the page does its job at the content level: a full description of the user benefits and features of a SD card along with key graphics, comparison charts, and images.
On the Amazon mobile site, however, this is the content an iPhone user sees:
Unformatted sales bullets, no graphics, no comparison charts, and no user benefits.
The Amazon iPhone app offers a better, though still not optimal, experience:
As you can see, Amazon’s iPhone App offers the full desktop site description, but without any formatting that simplifies the reading experience, and no sidebars, graphics, or images.
Tagging Your Content Wikipedia Style
For an ideal mobile solution, look no further than Wikipedia. Wikipedia provides a separate mobile site that offers the full content of the desktop site, but with collapsible content “chunks” that give mobile users the option of reading more.
This site provides an ideal model for parsing out content for mobile users.
Here is a screen shot of the Wikipedia SanDisk Corporation page:
The site offers the full range of graphics and images that the desktop site offers, as well as the same content, but in a comfortably digestible form.
A retail (or brand site) mobile platform could, by tagging the content elements within a product page as I discussed in the previous post, have the same effect.
Let’s take a look at what a mobile site for the Sandisk SD card might look like:
Here you have the content organized and parsed into small enough chunks that you can easily imagine this content displaying line-by-line on your wrist, or on any other small device.
Tagging your product-detail pages not only future-proofs your content, but also gives small-device users the control to access whichever pieces of content will satisfy their immediate needs.