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Among the many challenges businesses face while creating an optimised experience for smartphone users is how to deal with mobile copywriting.

It’s not simply the case that sales copy or product descriptions that were created for a desktop site can be copied and pasted onto a mobile site.

The context and use case is entirely different and the copywriting needs to reflect those conditions.

The situation is made more difficult for sites that use responsive design, as the copywriting has to be suitable for all screen sizes. However that’s something I’ll address in a future post.

At the moment I’m more interested in how to write for sites and apps built specifically for smartphone users.

It could also be argued that these rules apply to all forms of copywriting and not just mobile, however on desktop you undoubtedly have a bit more freedom to be creative and break the rules if you feel the occasion allows it.

So here are my pointers for how to write effective copy for mobile, but for more information on this topic read my blog post on how small copywriting changes can lead to big increases in conversions or book yourself onto the Econsultancy copywriting training course.

Keep it short

The ability to write concise, persuasive copy is a valuable skill and one that shouldn’t be underestimated.

And it's even more important on mobile where attention spans and screen space are both in short supply. 

So while it may be tempting to show off your writing talent with long paragraphs of elegant prose, remember that mobile users have their mind on a specific task and are likely to be distracted at any point by phone calls, text messages, push notifications or whatever else is going on around them.

It’s always possible to shave off a few words here and there, so once you’ve written the initial copy make sure to take a break, then come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes to see what else can be cut out.

Getting a second opinion is also extremely useful, as your colleagues will hopefully be happy to hack up your beloved copy. 

Get to the point

An important part of writing tight copy is getting rid of superfluous introductions.

When writing blog posts we often agonise about coming up with the perfect opening line, one that is both interesting and informative while enticing the reader to find out more.

But on mobile there’s no time for showboating. You’re not trying to encourage the user to read your entire 600-word blog post, you just need to give them what they’re looking for with the minimum of fuss.

That means getting straight to the point and front-loading all the most important details, such as product/service details, key features and the most compelling benefits.

Use bullet points

Bullet points have a number of benefits. Most importantly, they break up text and allow readers to scan the page more easily.

But a secondary benefit is that it enables the writer to highlight the most important points using short, punchy sentences and without reverting to long, descriptive paragraphs.

So if you’re struggling to come up with tight, compelling copy then bullet points could well be the answer.

Sub-headers

If you’ve got a complicated product offering that requires a fair amount of explanation then consider using sub-headers as a way of helping readers scan the important details.

Ideally these should be a maximum of two words in length and should be completely unambiguous.

But ultimately if you’ve got a complex product offering then there’s only so much you can do with mobile copywriting, so make sure to also display a prominent click-to-call button so users can quickly get in touch to find out more information.

Strong calls-to-action

As with all copywriting the ultimate aim is to persuade the reader to take a specific course of action.

So if you’ve successfully completed the hard part of persuading someone to continue their interaction with your business, you don’t want to mess it up with a weak call-to-action.

Walmart's good CTA vs. Sears' bad CTA

                      

We’ve previously blogged the factors that go into designing an effective mobile CTA so I won’t dwell on it here, but essentially it needs to be concise, unambiguous and help to create a sense of urgency.

So for example, ‘Call us’ might be more effective than ‘Click here to speak to one of our sales people’.

Don’t be afraid of contractions

It may go against your classical training, but the use of contractions cuts out unnecessary words and can make the copy easier to read.

So instead of “you will” opt for “you’ll” and you’ve saved yourself two characters.

100-word limit?

While reading around this topic I’ve noticed that several bloggers and copywriters recommend setting a restriction of 100 words on each mobile page.

Personally I’m not in favour of enforcing strict limits on word counts, as you can always find examples that force you to break your own rule.

However if you’re managing a team or a specific project then it might be useful to set an upper limit for word counts just to challenge your copywriters to be as concise as humanly possible.

David Moth

Published 24 March, 2014 by David Moth @ Econsultancy

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via Google+ and LinkedIn

1682 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

Chris Michael

Chris Michael, Digital Transformation Consultant and CTO at CJEM

Sorry but the concept of 'mobile copywriting' is largely nonsense.

While the use case for mobile is often different, it is wrong to generalise. Readers get frustrated if you give them less information and/or a cut down experience on mobile.

Most, if not all, of your points above are just as true on desktop devices. Copy should be short and to the point. And if you do this on desktop, guess what? Your desktop conversion rate will also rise.

In any case, the 'answer' depends on the context. For news articles, you should take exactly the same approach as for desktop - users will scroll to read. And for Ecommerce sites, it is all about how you 'layer' the content. On a mobile you may chose to 'hide' detailed copy behind a 'more' button, which then exposes this additional content on-click.

Bottom line is that it is fundamentally wrong to take one 'blanket' approach for desktop and another different one for mobile. You need a joined up approach which works for both. But the golden rule is: don't assume, test!

over 2 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Editor & Head of Social at EconsultancyStaff

Hi Chris, thanks for your comment. I think we sort of agree on this issue, as I did say at the top of the post that these suggestions apply to desktop as well as mobile, however I do think they become even more important on mobile platforms due to the smaller screen size and the different user context. But perhaps the real focus of the post should have been to look at how smartphone use has impacted copywriting for desktop.

And I agree with your point on news sites, I should have made clear that I was referring to mobile commerce sites and apps.

over 2 years ago

Chris Michael

Chris Michael, Digital Transformation Consultant and CTO at CJEM

Thanks for this - we mostly agree then. Keep posting - love it.

over 2 years ago

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