Best Practice

How to Write for Mobile: Pass the 1-2-3-4 Test

Put the hot stuff up top.

People spend 84% more time above the fold than below it, according to the Nielsen Norman Group. But where’s the fold? Content that shows up above the fold (on the first screen) of a 30-inch monitor can take as many as five screens on a smartphone.

So don’t blow your top. Get your key ideas across on the first screen of your message — even to folks who are visiting your webpage, looking at your email or reading your blog post on mobile devices.

You don’t need writing apps to get the job done. Just communicate the gist of your message in the first four elements of your message:

1. The Headline

Tell the story, don’t tell about the story. “Hallmark doubles profit-sharing contribution,” for instance, not “Benefits changes announced.” And don’t even get me started on label headlines: “Benefits changes” is not a headline.

Before:

Preventing and declaring conflicts of interest

This buries the topic behind 25 characters worth of –inging words. Plus, it’s unclear: Who’s preventing? Who’s declaring?

After:

Conflicts of interest: How do you handle?

This moves the topic to the top and clarifies who’s responsible.

2. Deck

Deliver a secondary angle for news stories and a summary for benefits and feature stories. Don’t drop this essential element: 95% of webpage visitors look at the deck. So this element works great for people who don’t spend a lot of time reading.

Before:

The writer dropped the deck, missing 25% of her chance to get the word out within the top four elements of the story.

After:

Conduct all your business ethically with our new policy.

The new deck adds the benefit to the readers and introduces the new policy.

3. Lead

Show, don’t tell. Leads that illustrate the point with concrete material like stories bring the point to life for readers. And they draw 300% more readers and 520% more reading, according to a split test by Alex Turnbull and the Groove HQ.

Before:

Have you ever been in a situation where your personal interests seem to be in conflict with your responsibilities as an XYZ employee?

I think I’d read 520% more of this if it were 15% more colorful.

After:

Is your brother-in-law bidding on an XYZ contract? Does your husband work for the competition? Is your neighbor applying for a job in your department?

Just a light touch of detail makes this piece more engaging, puts the reader in the story and brings the message to life. Stories that are more engaging gather more traction not just via your website, but via social media as well.

4. Nut graph

Put the story into a nutshell in the second paragraph.

Before:

Situations such as these can touch every aspect of our day-to-day operations, regardless of where we are located or what we do. They can be difficult to identify and it may not always be clear how best to resolve them.

I’m sure this is all true, but it doesn’t define the story and move it forward. I’d consider this background rather than a nut graph.

After:

If so, your personal interests may be in conflict with your responsibilities as an XYZ employee. Our new conflicts of interest policy can help.

Here, we make the story snappier by reducing the nut graph’s word count and get that policy link up among the first four elements.

Now test it

Now, copy those first four elements over from your text editor and email them to yourself so you can test them on your smartphone.

Before:

Preventing and declaring conflicts of interest

Have you ever been in a situation where your personal interests seem to be in conflict with your responsibilities as an XYZ employee?

Situations such as these can touch every aspect of our day-to-day operations, regardless of where we are located or what we do. They can be difficult to identify and it may not always be clear how best to resolve them.

After:

Conflicts of interest: How do you handle?
Conduct all your business ethically with our new policy.

Is your brother-in-law bidding on an XYZ contract? Does your husband work for the competition? Is your neighbor applying for a job in your department?

If so, your personal interests may be in conflict with your responsibilities as an XYZ employee. Our new conflicts of interest policy can help.

Can you get the gist of your piece from the first four elements? If so, congratulations! You pass the 1-2-3-4 test.

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