Charity Digital – Topics – How to optimize content for mobile devices

This article is sponsored by Public Interest Registry. For more useful tools and resources, visit www.orglearningcenter.org.


Of all your charity’s digital output, about half of it will be viewed on a mobile device. And of all the Google searches carried out for information related to your charity, about half will be made on a mobile device. Because of this, Google now includes “mobile friendliness” in its ranking algorithm.

That means that it’s vital to optimize web pages, email comms, and all the other parts of your digital program for mobile device users. If you don’t, you risk failing to reach many of your potential service users, supporters, and volunteers.

Rules of three

That’s because if your website is not optimized for mobile then there’s less chance of it appearing in the top three Google search results. And if a mobile user does visit your site, 53% will leave if it takes longer than three seconds to load, according to Google research.

Emails are just as important. 46% of emails are opened on a mobile device, according to HubSpot. If they fail to display correctly then they are likely to be deleted within three seconds.

Responsive Design

At the most basic level, that means you have two choices when it comes to web pages. You can build two websites – one for desktop users and one for mobile users. But this is costly and creates a lot of unnecessary work. A better alternative is to use a responsive web design that adapts the way it displays automatically, depending on whether the viewer is using a desktop or a mobile device.

The good news is that almost all website platforms now offer adaptive designs, but if your current website is not adaptive then now might be the time to consider changing to one that is.

Mobile content

An adaptive design will ensure that your website displays correctly and is usable on a mobile, and that’s a very good starting point. But what’s just as important is that the content of your web pages is easy to read and in-demand information is easy to find when viewed on a mobile.

Research has found mobile users want easy access to pricing information, directions, and “location near me” information. While pricing information may not be relevant to a charity, directions and location information can be highly relevant to charities with stores, collection points, and service delivery sites.

Making your web pages easy to read

When you sit down at a desktop computer you can get comfortable and settle in for a long read. But that’s not the case for mobile users. Many people browse the web on a mobile while waiting for a bus, or while waiting for the kettle to boil, or in other brief moments during the day when they have a few spare minutes.

That means your charity web pages need to be designed to accommodate the fact that your mobile visitors may not have much time to view them. So you need to be brief, you need to make it easy for them to get the information they want, and you have to make the content easy to dip into for short periods.

Bite, snack, meal

One technique you can use to achieve this is known as “bite, snack, meal”. Using this technique, you provide:

    • A headline offering a little instant information (bite), to grab the interest of the reader
    • A summary of the web page or email (snack) to satisfy them in the short-term
    • All the information in your web page or email (meal) to provide them with everything you have to offer – if they have the time to read it

A good bite

Headlines are key to attracting mobile visitors’ interest and research shows that just five or six words are best, as they will display properly on a smartphone as long as there are less than about 60 characters.

You can analyze the length of your headline using a tool such as Co-schedule’s headline analyzer

A satisfying snack

Your summary should be no more than one or two short paragraphs, containing key information that’s included in the web page or email.

It’s important not to try to put too much into the summary – enough to make the mobile visit worthwhile even if they only have a few moments before the bus arrives, while providing the promise of more information if the visitor has time to read more or if they visit again.

A great meal

The rest of your content goes here, but there are still some important considerations. That’s because a small smartphone screen is not the ideal way to present a web page or email, so you need to make the content as easy and attractive to read as possible.

There are a number of ways to do this, including:

    • Breaking your content into easily consumed short paragraphs
    • Using plenty of whitespace to avoid making the screen too cluttered
    • Using images to break up the page (Make sure that they can be easily viewed on a mobile. Simple graphics and photographs work, detailed graphs with figures often don’t)

You can also include videos in your web pages to break them up, and evidence suggests that mobile users enjoy watching video content.

But as many as 85% of viewers can watch video without sound on mobile devices, according to Digiday researchso be sure that content works without sound – by providing subtitles, for example.

Keep it brief

Mobile users prefer content that is written concisely and to the point, and in fact most people prefer to read content that does not contain unnecessary padding because it can be read more quickly and understood more easily.

Try to use as few words as possible to convey meaning, avoid cliches and wordy phrases, and don’t use six words when one will do. Why say “in close proximity to” when you mean “near”?

Two useful online resources to help you keep it brief are Plainlanguage swear Daily Writing Tips

Test it out

Perhaps the most important thing you can do with all your charity’s digital content is to try viewing it on a mobile device before it is published.

Check that it displays correctly, that it looks attractive, and that the content is easy to read. After all, if you don’t like what you see, then the chances are that neither will your target audience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *