Screens, Research and Hypertext

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On Not Being Mobile First

You shouldn't read this on your phone.

I hope you're reading this on a desktop. The mobile experience is pretty poor. That was a conscious choice.

It's not one that I made lightly. I came to the field of content strategy just before responsive web design started to take off. The importance of mobile-first design was the dominant theme of every book I read and every conference I attended in those days. I'm on my third copy of Karen McGrane's Content Strategy for Mobile, as I keep loaning out my copies to people who then want to keep them.

Building a site that works just as well on mobile as on desktop is a foundational principle.

And yet...I wonder if it's right for the research sector.

We live in a world in which mobile use has passed desktop use. One in which many internet users are mobile-only and more still are mobile-mostly. That's all been true for half a decade or so.

But in that same time, mobile traffic to many of the research sites I work with has barely budged. Desktops claim upwards of 75% of all traffic. Take out visits to blog posts and the percentage climbs higher still.

A phone screen just isn't a great place for doing research. Maybe sites that produce research materials shouldn't be designed for them.

For more context

Reading starts at the top left and finishes at the bottom right. What more could there be?

What to read next

There are two types of reading. Mobile screens only work for one of them.

Other items of interest

What is content strategy and why should I care about it?

Research needs a lot of real estate.

Research websites focus too much on outcomes and too little on process.