How to Make Your Content More Reader-Friendly for Mobile Users
Viewing your content on your phone will help you see what your audience sees. This will help you fix errors, and optimize your content for mobile readers.
In 2021, more than 58% of internet traffic comes from mobile users worldwide — and just over 50% of US internet traffic is from a mobile device, according to Statcounter. And that number is trending up.
What does this mean for you?
If you create anything online, it’s critical that you look at it on your cell phone before you publish. Previewing your content through the lens of a phone allows you to spot and pre-emptively fix problems you wouldn’t notice on a desktop. Those include:
- Hiding important information
- Not sectioning off content
- Walls of text
- Burying the main point (or lede)
- Overlarge images
- Squished tables
How to view your content on mobile
Sure, you can pull out your phone and preview your content there. But if your phone’s not handy or it’s an obstacle course just to view your content with it, try this instead.
How to open mobile view on your web browser
- Right click on the web page you want to view
- Select Inspect
- If you don’t see a Device Toolbar at the top of the page, click the icon that looks like a phone in the top left of the Inspect window (on Firefox this is on the right next to the X)
- The Device Toolbar lets you select from different phones and window sizes to view your content in
- Try viewing your content in a few different phone-sized windows and look for the following common problems
1. Bring important info to the top
If you’ve ever read a newspaper (a physical, paper-and-ink version), you might have noticed that the day’s most important story usually appears at the very top of the cover page.
When the newspaper is folded over, you can still see most or all of the story and its headline. This is almost like the very first version of clickbait. (Though it’s likely most olden-day newspapers actually delivered the story they promised.)
I bring this up because this rule applies even today: Make sure your most important information is above the digital fold, or can be seen before the reader has to scroll.
2. Add sections and subheads
Have you ever read an article and felt like you’ve been scrolling forever? Or worse, that you forgot the original point the article was trying to make?
Breaking your content up into smaller sections that are clearly labeled can help improve your readers’ understanding and memorization.
Nielsen Norman Group, a user experience research group, calls this chunking. We take a similar approach when reading off long numbers, such as phone numbers. Here in the US, we chunk our phone numbers up into a three-digit area code, then the first three digits of our phone number, then the last four digits.
Chunking our phone numbers makes it easier to remember and for those listening to understand. Chunking your content has a similar positive effect.
Bonus: Chunking your content into sections can help you rank higher in search results. Use your primary and secondary SEO keywords in your subheads to signal to Google that your content covers X, Y, or Z topic.
3. Knock down walls of text
Similar to tip number two, chunking your content within sections makes it much more digestible.
A whopping 79% of online readers prefer to scan content, as I mentioned in my guide to creating a great user experience with your writing. That includes scanning your paragraphs, so you should limit them to three to four sentences max. Or, take my challenge and condense your key point into just one heavy-hitting sentence.
Another tactic you can use to chunk your content is to break it up with images, tables, pull quotes, and lists.
Of course, you only want to use these if they add to your story. Avoid them if they distract or don’t help get your point across.
4. Don’t make readers dig for your points
The worst thing you can do to your readers is make them sift through fluff or prolonged paragraphs just to get to your point.
Instead, look to journalism’s golden child, the inverted pyramid, to structure your story. My journalism professors constantly preached about the inverted pyramid in college, and now I’m going to preach it to you. (Sorry!)
Put your main idea and the most important information at the top of every section — this is the base of your pyramid. It comes at the top because the pyramid is inverted, or flipped upside down.
Again, this is similar to tip number one, but hitting the main points is just as important for your intro as it is for your subsections. Chances are, most readers won’t last long enough to get to your point, and you’ll lose them before you start your second sentence.
By using the inverted pyramid, you trust that, if you’ve reached the right audience, they’ll continue reading to get all the juicy details.
Bonus tip: Remember that the goal of every sentence is to get your audience to read the next sentence. Don’t get sidetracked with fluff.
5. Resize images
Images can be supportive or they can drag your content down.
To give your readers the best experience, add images where they can augment to content. You should also crop, optimize, and compress your images. And resizing gigantic photos is vital too.
- Crop unnecessary extras from your photos. My job as a review writer sometimes requires me to take screenshots, and I always crop those so only the important areas of the screenshot are shown. Free tools for this include Canva and Photopea, or the Preview tool if you use a Mac.
- Optimize your images by reducing the resolution to 72 ppi — or max 150 ppi. (Higher resolutions are mainly for printing and not the web.)
- Compress every image with an app or site like TinyPNG. TinyPNG reduces your image’s file size without turning it into a pointillism artwork.
- Resize or remove overlarge images if they require you to scroll to get to the content above or below. Nielsen Norman Group recommends trying to place images on the left or right of text — or removing large images altogether if they don’t fit on a mobile screen.
6. Give tables room to breath
If your table is lengthy, think about how you can break it out into smaller data points.
You could also tease the info from the full table, then place the full-length version at the end of the article. This allows skimmers to skim, avoids hiding your main point, and lets those interested get the full picture.
For my full-time job, I sometimes write pieces that compare data by state.
My latest article for Reviews.org on how many American households don’t have home internet does this. To tease the full data set, I first presented info on the 10 most- and least-connected states. Even this gets fairly lengthy — I might have gotten away with presenting the top five states instead.
The massive table with data for all 50 states is the very last part of my article (unless you count my sources).
Without looking at your content on your phone, you won’t spot potential issues I’ve covered here. And considering more than half of your audience will view your work on their mobile device, catching those issues before you publish is essential.
That’s right, this is a legitimate reason to rack up some screen time.
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I've been writing for 10+ years in a variety of formats: journalism, emails, website copy, you name it. I enjoy sharing my craft with others. I'm also a total geek for all things internet and gaming.
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