Mobile Best Practices: A Modest Proposal

What not to do when it comes to mobile best practices for digital publishers; plus, news from Twitter and Condé Nast

Getting a grasp of mobile best practices is like trying to catch a fish bare-handed. Unless you’re a bear, they’re really tough to pin down. If you are a bear, you probably don’t have a smart phone, let alone a digital magazine property. And how are you even reading this?

One thing we do have a handle on when it comes to mobile publishing is what not to do. Of course, that doesn’t keep many (bad-acting) publishers from doing exactly those things, which is part of the reason the industry is facing such a viewability crisis, with ad blocking at the forefront of the challenges.

Design and user experience are two crucial considerations in mobile best practices, and their successful execution requires some common sense. While tech, targeting, and audience development are slippery and ever-shifting, some basics are pretty constant. As Steve Smith shows in a recent MinOnline post, however, apparently some aren’t basic enough!

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Steve Smith’s Modest Proposal on Mobile Best Practices

Smith’s entertaining piece at MinOnline provides – in true tongue-in-cheek fashion – the complete opposite of mobile best practices in an effort to educate digital publishers. Of course, Mequoda Members will be well schooled in many, if not all, of these, but just for fun, here’s a few to “keep in mind”:

Rule #1: If your ‘Close’ button is big enough to see the ‘X’ it is too big. Once thought a faux pas of mobile, it turns out that ‘fat fingers’ is a business model. Mobile interstitials routinely hide, shrink or blend Close and other buttons such that it’s nearly impossible even for a child’s finger to avoid unintentionally triggering the ad call. Larger Skip buttons are so clear and descriptive of the consumers’ purpose that they might be mistaken for publisher’s taking good stewardship over their users’ time with them,” Smith writes.

Rule #5: Don’t use a ‘Top’ tool to get people back to the top of the page easily in long articles. Again, call it a service. You’re fighting their carpal tunnel with compensatory exercise – feverish reverse scrolling. And while you’re at it, do not, under any circumstances, use persistent sharing tools. Force them to return to the top or find the bottom of the article to share. If you combine an absence of a ‘Top’ tool with a lack of persistent social tools. You just multiplied the pain of using the site and undermined your own social distribution program at the same time.”

And, finally, Rule #7:

“Make sure the Outbrain/Taboolah programmatic native ads are sandwiched between your article and your own content recommendations. This ensures your priorities of putting penny ante monetization ahead of both user satisfaction and your own brand equity are clear to the reader. Extra points for making the third party and your own recommended articles look and feel indistinguishable. Otherwise, you risk distinguishing your brand from commoditized (literally ‘commoditized’) content, and I’ve already scolded you once for this.”

See the other “rules” for mobile best practices here!

Learn the secrets behind today's most rapidly growing niche publishers. Download a FREE copy of How to Develop a Multiplatform Magazine Business Plan, and discover how large your magazine business could become and how much of an investment will be required to build your business to maturity.

Twitter for Publishers: Updates to Video Service

Twitter has been in the news a lot lately, which has provided some much-needed buzz. Word of more flexible character counts when it comes to images and links, Periscope’s utilization during congressional sit-ins, and now an announcement on video innovations is keeping the service at the forefront of the industry’s mind. MinOnline reports on the latest:

“After seeing user growth stall in late 2015 and posting disappointing earnings in February, a little birdie told min –okay, it was Twitter itself – that video tweets have increased by 50% over the past six months. Now the platform is making some changes on the video front. Earlier this week, Tubefilter reported that Twitter announced major product updates, the most important of which to publishers is that users can now share longer videos,” Michele Shapiro writes.

“Previously, uploads were limited to 30 seconds, but beginning this week, all users can post 140-second videos. If that number sounds familiar, it’s intentional; 140 is also the character count of a written tweet, which the platform debated changing earlier in the year but, in the end, held fast on. In other Twitter news this week, the company announced a $150 million acquisition of machine learning startup Magic Pony Technology, which, ‘will be used to enhance our strength in live and video,’ says CEO Jack Dorsey.”

Condé Nast Acquires Backchannel

Condé Nast has purchased tech business blog Backchannel as part of a niche strategy, bolstering the strength of its current like-minded properties, MinOnline reports.

“Backchannel is one of the most highly-respected tech business brands and seamlessly complements Wired and Ars Technica to create the premier group of leading editorial brands covering the technology sector,” Condé Nast Chief Digital Officer Fred Santarpia said in a statement.

“Backchannel’s unique and highly-engaged audience of tech enthusiasts also creates new opportunities for our advertisers.”

Are there any mobile best practices you’d add to Steve Smith’s hilarious list of “rules”? Let us know in the comments!

To read more about mobile best practices and other industry trends, visit MinOnline.

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