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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.
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.
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.
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.