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The Importance of “Multi-Screen Thinking” When Creating Web Content

For today’s web developers, start-ups and forward thinking businesses the notion of ‘web content’ and where it’s seen is changing at an incredible rate. Gone are the days of designing and producing a site suitable just for a desktop PC monitor. In 2011 web content must be developed to be viewed and interacted with across a range of screens of varying sizes, from smartphones to the widest flat-screens – and this post should help us to start considering ‘multi-screen thinking’ and its importance.

In the interest of keeping this post quite snappy I have opted to focus on just three types of web content: home pages, e-commerce pages and promotional content (such as blog posts and news articles) which should give us a range of examples. I also wanted to make the information easy to remember, so let me introduce you to:

The 3 “…ables” of multi-screen thinking when creating web content

1. Viewable

The first ‘multi-screen thinking’ question to ask ourselves when creating web content is: will this be viewable across multiple screens? Even before we have moved away from desktop monitors and laptops, it is important to bare in mind the range of browsers web users are using to arrive at your homepage. According to TopTenREVIEWS the top 3 browsers available currently are Firefox, Chrome and Internet Explorer and it is important to bear in mind that some sites may load slower in certain browsers than others – and if your homepage is not viewable on a certain browser within a few seconds it is likely that user may give up and head somewhere else.

Of course, beyond desktops and laptops, web content needs to be quickly viewable on smaller screens such as smartphones and tablets such as iPad – and the most important information and ‘calls to action’ should ideally be seen as soon as a homepage is loaded.

2. Usable

So if you’re happy that your web content is adequately viewable across all screens (and browsers), the second thing to consider is whether that content is usable too. This is increasingly important with mobile devices in mind. As Internet Retailing reports, 18% of online shopping at Christmas was expected to be done via mobile but only a 23% minority of retailers had sufficient navigable mobile sites or apps in place for this proportion of users.

With more people shopping on mobile, e-commerce sites need to not only ensure that product pages are displaying vital information simply, clearly and concisely – but the checkout process needs to be quick and easy (and must remain safe) for smartphone users as well as traditional internet shoppers. Of course, testing and refining the process on a variety of technologies is key here.

3. Shareable

Aside from simply being viewable and usable across multiple screens, shareability is also a big factor when it comes to web content – and especially content geared towards getting traffic to your site (such as blog posts).

There can be multi-screen issues as simple as formatting, with text size and lengths of articles – but aspects of good shareable posts which really get people “liking” on Facebook or re-tweeting on Twitter, such as data graphs, images and infographics need to transfer well to smaller screens (and across 3G and 4G networks). This is the first step to ensuring prospective sharers are seeing the kinds of things they like to pass to their friends and followers as soon as possible, and on any of their devices. Good fresh content should be seen by as many people as possible, and new tech users are really the last group you want to frustrate by not considering mobile devices when producing content to be shared.

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