Aug 21, 2012

The Rise of Content Strategy—Trend #2: More Devices! More!

Margot Merrill's picture
Margot Merrill
Director, Content & Brand Strategy

Way back “Then,” one of the main challenges of developing websites was optimizing them for different browsers. (Let’s not talk about Internet Explorer 6—it’s still too painful.) Design teams planned for a few different screen resolutions. I remember when everyone heaved a big sigh of relief that we could target 1080x760 pixels, the approximate size of a 15-inch—and probably 15-pound—laptop computer. That was future-forward in 2005!

And then the iPhone was introduced in 2007 (thank you, Steve Jobs) with a touchscreen and its own little version of a Web browser, Safari. In September 2008, Google released its smartphone operating system, Android. A slew of smartphones followed, each with their own quirks and screen sizes. Plus, we couldn’t forget that some folks, especially global audiences, still rocked their non-smart “feature phones.”

Organizations began creating streamlined versions of their websites, optimized for mobile viewing. They displayed simplified menus, less copy, and fewer, and smaller, images. By 2009, many of us were maintaining “regular” and “mobile” versions of every website. It began to get painful for content managers and publishers.

That’s a lot of change in a short period of time. But things have only accelerated further in the last few years. A scant two years ago, the iPad was released, bringing with it a big, beautiful touchscreen interface. The iPad had very different requirements and awesome new possibilities for the user experience. (Hot had the privilege of designing one of the very first iPad apps, for our long-term client and partner, Zinio.) And more tablets were introduced to the market—some came with a stylus, some not; some were larger, some smaller—each with their unique features.

Because things weren’t complicated enough, this year Apple introduced the Retina display in some of its laptops. (Thanks again, Steve! No really. We’ll rise to the occasion, and love it.) Its higher resolution has impacted the size of all images we may produce—and thus the need to really plan to serve up the correctly-sized image to the right device.

And, oh yes, have you heard about the Fourth Screen? That’s right—the big flat panel HDTV in your living room, which is great for cruising Netflix and, soon, the Web. How should content be displayed on that big honkin’ screen? Will audiences want the same content, or will it need to be reorganized? How will Retina and HDTV screens affect organizations’ asset production?


Hot Studio’s technology team has become deeply involved with HTML5, which allows us to do more on the front-end to optimize for different screen sizes. HTML5 solves some problems, but the fact remains that myriad screen sizes and interfaces (touch or no-touch) still require serious consideration from design and content teams.

What content is crucial for viewing on each device? Does a smaller screen size mean we really have to offer less than the “full” version viewed on a desktop? How will “smart” menus, which contain lots of good information to guide users, display on an iPad, versus a smartphone, versus Ye Olde Desktop?

I don’t know about you right now, but I’m sweating. I think we need to call in a Content Strategist!

How Content Strategy Can Help with Device Mania
The most exciting thing to everyone at Hot these days is Responsive Design—the result of which Wikipedia describes as: “[U]sers across a broad range of devices and browsers will have access to a single source of content, laid out so as to be easy to read and navigate with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling.”

Doesn’t that sound awesome? What we in the Content Strategy practice can do to help with responsive design is:

  • Work with designers to develop content requirements to ensure it will work in different screen sizes.
  • Work with developers to structure content so it can be appropriately deployed to different screen sizes and devices. (To simplify, think of structuring your content as “Short Headline” and “Long Headline,” or a “Full Res” image versus a “Small 72 dpi” image—any of which could be called up for different screen sizes.)
  • Work with writers so they can create all of the “bits” at once. Creating your various content at once (i.e., long and short headlines, etc.) helps ensure that approvers can review all related content elements at one time, thereby reducing inefficiencies in the creation and review process.
  • Work with developers to wrap all necessary information into the CMS (include the appropriate “fields” for the structured content, along with inline content guidelines.
  • Perform Quality Assurance testing with designers and developers to adjust the content and content plans as needed.

But devices are just one trend leading to the rise of Content Strategy. Next up, Content Trend #3: More Social! More!

Don’t sweat it. Content help is on the way.

See Trend #1: More Content! More!

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