3 Rules for Creating Adaptive Content

By James Knutila on Wednesday, March 26, 2014

3 Rules for Creating Adaptive Content
There are over 12,000 different devices on the market, and smartphone use is projected to reach two billion by 2015. With growth like that, one thing is clear: It’s crucial for your content to adapt seamlessly to many devices. 

The key to creating adaptive content is to forget about only targeting specific devices, and focus instead on creating great content that will be usable in a wider variety of scenarios. Great adaptive content is three things: complete, simple and clean.

1. Adaptive content is complete

Don’t make the common mistake of assuming mobile literally means “mobile.” Most smartphone owners use their mobile devices at home—in a totally different context than the imagined on-the-go mobile user. So it’s foolish to make assumptions about what kind of content mobile users will and won’t want to see based on the false premise that they’re literally mobile. 

The best solution? Don’t limit what pages mobile users can see. Let them decide where they want to go: If you provide users with a well-designed navigation menu and allow them to access your full site via mobile, they’ll find whatever content they’re looking for.

2. Adaptive content is simple

Again, it’s important to think of your users’ habits. Since the ‘90s, research has indicated that few users read websites word for word. Studies conducted by web usability consultant Jakob Nielsen found that about 80% of users scan web pages, and only 16% read the content carefully. 

Unnecessary complexity makes your content hard to enjoy, especially on small mobile screens. Simplify content by keeping it concise and neatly formatted. Leave out unnecessary information, and use bullet points, bold and italic fonts and other formatting tools to organize your ideas.

Finally, steer clear of browser-based plugins. If you choose to present your content with Flash, users without the plugin won’t be able to see it at all. And even if they do have Flash, the experience may still be awkward: For example, when you’re using Flash on Firefox for Android, you have to tap every individual instance of the plugin to activate it. 

3. Adaptive content is clean 

The best way to prepare your content for mobile is to keep it separate from your site design. This way, if you want to use the same content in multiple places, you can import the content without worrying about whether the styling will match.

Of course, you'll need to manage your content in a way that allows it to be flexible, which we discuss further in our mobile content ebook. But these 3 rules are a great start toward ensuring your content strategy makes sense in today's fragmented world of devices. 

image via bendy.

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