Good Things Come in Small Packages: Designing Content for Mobile Devices

December 12, 2011 | Rob Sutherland
Good Things Come in Small Packages: Designing Content for Mobile Devices

The ability to communicate with viewers at their convenience has always been one of the big value propositions of Brainshark. However, the explosion of mobile devices like tablets and smartphones adds a new dimension to the concept of on-demand communication. Increasingly, your prospective viewer is likely to be away from their desktop or laptop computer and looking into a tablet or smart phone screen when they encounter your presentation link. 

How does this new mobile reality affect the content design process? In exchange for the opportunity of reaching people on their mobile devices, content authors need to consider how this new medium impacts the design of their content.

The More Things Change…

The first step in the design process is the same as it’s always been - consider your audience. What are you trying to communicate to them? Is the content suitable for an “on-the-go” audience with its potentially shortened attention span? Or does it demand a level of time or attention that’s not realistic to expect from a viewer you catch on the run? Is it content that, by its nature, involves complicated or intricate graphics?  Once you’ve considered the trade-offs and decided that you need to reach your audience not only whenever they’re ready but wherever they are, it’s time to design for the small screen!

Think Big Thoughts, Then Make Them Small

Think about it: The average screen on a smart phone is perhaps 10 to 15% the size of the average desktop or laptop screen – tablets are somewhere in between.  So visual content that works well on the bigger screen may require substantially different design (or re-design) to work well on a mobile device.  A presentation laden with text and detailed images may look acceptable on a PC or laptop but will be unreadable on a mobile device.

If you’re designing a single piece that will have to work on all devices, you’ll want to design your content with the smallest screens  - smartphones – as your baseline, and make sure to do some test viewing on those devices.  At  Brainshark, we’ve known for some time that less on-screen text and more use of related, engaging graphics makes for more compelling and effective communications, and designing for the smart phone screen can be just the catalyst you need to simplify and sharpen the impact of your messaging. In the small screen world it goes from important to imperative that your slides not be text heavy and that they use engaging, related graphics to make their points.  Keep your eye on this space for more specific tips on designing and optimizing your content for mobile devices.

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