Creating news for mobile consumption

May 29 2012

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Angry Birds. The list of applications available on smart phones could go on for days, and according to statistics from the Digital Buzz Blog, that’s just the way users want it. The average American spends almost three hours a day on his or her smart phone — that’s more than twice the time they spend eating and almost a third of the time they spend sleeping.

Keeping this in mind, my fellow WhichWayNC team members and I have faced one key question during our first week of work: wait, how will this work on a mobile device?

From developing a name to creating story ideas and planning our launch, we’ve been working hard to think about the users who will interact with our content on a two-inch by four-inch screen before considering the more traditional desktop users. Hours of debate and dozens of creativity-inducing activities later, we’ve realized that the rules for mobile are few and far between. So, we’re making ours up along the way. Since the point of this project is to experiment with new technology, we hope that whether we succeed or fail at our efforts, we’ll learn some valuable lessons along the way.

Here’s what we’ve figured out so far:

  • Short, memorable and easy-to-spell domain names are best for mobile devices where users will be typing in the address using smaller keys.
  • Not everyone who has a smartphone uses it to get political information, so we need to target our key use cases when deciding what content to publish.
  • Easy-to-read chunks of text, images and lists tend to be what users prefer on mobile devices.
  • The digital world is a two-way street, so our presence on social media and the personality in our work will be crucial to our success.
  • Ninety percent of users do not interact with content online, so it is our job to figure out how to increase engagement.

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