2015/06 The Challenge of Mobile in Effective Communication

(This comes from a talk we gave to undergraduate communication majors in Bremen in February 2015.)

As producers of content we generally want people to see it and to respond to it, and until fairly recently this has been simple enough to realize.

Media for the masses really began, albeit slowly, in the 1500s with the invention of print. We no longer to had to rely on monks copying parchments by hand and waiting sometimes years for the next issue of our magazine to appear.

Around the turn of the 20th century , recordings of sound and pictures helped media reach the masses faster and in a more entertaining fashion than ever before.

Of course the advent of television in the 1950’s has been seen as probably THE most important catalyst in how media was spread to the masses.

Then of course the internet – how many remember a time without the internet? I remember a time without having a television as a kid actually … and at the turn of the 21st century the complete change in everything we do – mobile.

Now, the move from a desktop internet to a mobile internet probably occurred during the last quarter of 2011 – the mobile moment as some people refer to it. And I don’t think we’ll ever be returning from the halcyon days of cable in the wall towers any time soon …

So just how scary is the volume of mobile phones in the market? Some people are saying more phones than people – and there are actually more phones being sold each day than there are babies being born. Which means one day mobile phone sales are probably going to tank ….

As I said we have as many mobile connections today as we have people – and something here about traffic growth…

Mobile is unique in that it harnesses all of our previous mass media inventions and let’s you take them with you.  TV, books, cinema, all as easy to take with you as a portable radio – and how many people remember having one of those hanging from the handle bars of your bike?

Technology is changing our world at an astounding rate. How we accessed the internet, how we interacted with content has changed. It was once quite static.

And now with the rise of mobile is quite  … well, mobile.

But all this content, all this stuff, must still find an audience. It must still connect.

And I mean A LOT of content … the internet in 2012 was about 500 billion gigs …

And because garbage will fill the space provided, and the internet is a very large space, the amount of data we just dump there is incredibly big … 1200 exabytes of data each year. That is about 1 million tb, or 80 billion 16 gig iphones.  If you laid them end to end thez would circle the earth about 100 times.  That is A LOT of cat videos …

So we have this enormously HUGE amount of data and all these billions of webpages and its being delivered at high speed and landing on our phones, laptops, tablets — and the question is – how do we make sure that people are getting the content that we want them to have, and on the correct device.

Now, we have basically four types of devices, if you will on which a website can be viewed – mobile or smartphone, a tablet, laptop and of course a desktop. These are the four defaults that we pretty much always have in mind when we think of internet access.

I wanted to just quickly go through these because I think that there is still a lot of room for better understanding about these device groups …

Smartphone and for sake of argument I won’t go into the smaller devices like the Samsung star etc – if you make a website for a smartphone you are probably thinking an iphone which is about 3.5 inches across. But as you can see there are also other widths …  we go up to 5.5 inches here … 7 inches, again still in the realm of the mobile phone device … to 8 inches – which is a real handful

Even with tablets we have a pretty wide band of sizes – 7 inches then up past 10 inches …

So when we talk about mobile and tablet we have a fair range to consider. Now I haven’t run through all the sizes of laptops and desktops – but they run the same spectrum – so when we are creating a website – it really can not be defined in terms of fixed widths.  But where DO we draw the line when differentiating between devices for our website –

We can say okay let’s differentiate between a device that offers touch and those that use a cursor or a keyboard – might be a safe enough bet.

But then there are laptops and there are laptops … so we need to expand the touch field a bit

And then a bit more …

And of course keyboards and mice … yup … really no chance.

And we haven’t even begun to talk about some of the new devices coming onto the market …

The web is NOT fixed width.

So our original expectation has gone from this to this…

Now, while we are running about with cameras on our heads, and mobiles in our faces, and tablets on our fingers, we need to step back and look at user interaction …

Curators and exhibition designers know that in order for people to fully appreciate and interact with content, to experience it , they must have certain things.

To be effective content must be … most importantly IN CONTEXT.

And what do I mean by that?

Now you have designed your website, ad, blog entry, whatever it is and THIS is your target group. The cool career woman free of distractions, high speed wireless internet, beautiful clutter free environment. There is no chance she will miss what you have to say right?

Well here she is again at home and she’s looking off screen there at her laptop trying to find the ad for the weekend in Disneyland she noticed at the office ….

Whether people see our content and respond to it is as much a matter of our understanding their goals as it is understanding their behaviours …

Our user is smack in the middle of three forces – what they are doing – how they are feeling – and how smart they are – and that is over and above if their 3g internet connection is working or not …

SO we can expand on our original expectation once again …

We have to move away from the old mindset build it and they will come – We need to RESPOND …

You can read a very good book on Content Strategy for Mobile here:
https://abookapart.com/products/content-strategy-for-mobile

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