Overcome the obstacles of reading on mobile
You may have heard that social scientists recently added a new item on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
The classic model of what drives human nature used to include:
- Self actualization: the feeling of doing what you were put on this planet to do
- Esteem: feeling good about yourself and what you do
- Social needs: having love, a tribe, companionship
- Safety and security: not being afraid of getting eaten by a tiger
- Physiological needs: food and shelter
Our modern world has revealed another, even more basic human need …
Mobile has become central to our readers’ daily life. And that’s a problem. Because it’s a lot harder to reach readers on a phone screen than it is to reach them on a laptop or desktop.
When your web visitors are reading on mobile, they:
1. Spend 50% less time on your message
People spend an average of 150 seconds on a web page visit on their desktops, but only 72 seconds on their phones, according to Mobile HCI.
Which means that attention spans on mobile devices are half as long as on desktops.
2. Read more slowly
People read 20% to 30% slower online, according to a survey of nearly 30 years of research by Andrew Dillon, Ph.D., of the University of Texas.
Reading on mobile takes even longer, writes Kate Meyer, a user experience specialist for Nielsen Norman Group. People spend about 30 milliseconds more per word when reading on a phone than when reading on a laptop or desktop computer.
3. Understand less of your message
Web pages are 48% harder to understand on an iPhone than on the big screen, according to research by R.I. Singh and colleagues from the University of Alberta.
In the study, web visitors understood 39% of what they read on a desktop screen but just 19% of what they read on mobile screens.
4. Remember less of your message
Short-term memory is bad and getting worse. (I looked up a short-term-memory loss joke for this spot this morning, but I can’t remember what it was.)
Problem is, we can only remember what we can see. With a 3-by-9-inch screen, we can’t see very much. In fact, content displayed above the fold on a 30-inch monitor requires five screens on a smartphone, according to the authors of User Experience for Mobile Applications and Websites.
Reading your web page on a smartphone is like reading War and Peace through a keyhole.
5. Are less likely to act on your message.
When the IRS improved its web pages about tax law changes, employee call center accuracy increased by 10%, reports TJ Larkin of Larkin Communications Consulting.
When the bureau printed the exact same web pages and left them in employees’ cubicles, accuracy increased by 42%.
The best way to move readers to act?