Business Insider revealed in December 2013 that for popular websites like Amazon and Facebook, the total user time spent on mobile was already more than that on desktop. As mobile continues to gain dominance, established businesses and emerging startups alike are utilizing smartphone technologies and marketing strategies to attract new customers and retain existing ones. This week we will look at the first two rising trends, microcontent and gamification. The second installment will be released next week.
Application content has been getting shorter. Content means anything that the users see, which can include articles, messages, and videos. Infrequent, lengthy content has given way to bursts of short content. There are two main reasons why.
- Mobile users are always on the move, so they won’t have time to consume lengthy content. Keep in mind, they could be using their smartphone while waiting for a bus, friend, or restaurant order. Soon enough, they’ll have to put their phone away. If the content is lengthy, users will consider it an unworthy investment to keep a mental note of where they left off.
- The second reason is a shorter attention span. The Pew Research Center reported that 87 percent of teachers thought that online search tools “are creating an ‘easily distracted generation with short attention spans’”. Thus, the microcontent itself should be concise and necessary or it will become irrelevant as well.
A number of Internet companies have caught on. Twitter limits its “tweets,” or messages, to 140 characters. In fact, tweets with less than 80 characters get 66 percent more engagement. Video-sharing mobile app Vine allows a maximum video length of six seconds. When sending Snapchat photos to friends, users can set a time limit from 1 to 10 seconds before the image is deleted. Of course, microcontent doesn’t have to only be for social networks. It can improve any mobile app.
Gamification is the use of game design in non-game settings to make them more engaging. It appeals to the human drives of achievement, status, and competition. Common elements are leveling, points, and badges. Rewards are given for completing specific tasks, effectively encouraging users to follow the path that the creators lay out. The status and competition elements are present since users can view each other’s achievements.
Skeptic consumers may accuse gamification of being a meaningless numbers game that companies utilize to manipulate them. While that may be true, the privy users can use it to their advantage. Since user profiles and their achievements are viewable by anyone, gamification can mean recognition in the eyes of others. This may not equate to much in casual websites such as Facebook, but it is becoming important in serious websites. Stack Overflow, a question-and-answer site centered around programming, has a user base of mostly computer science college students and professional software developers. It features gamification in the form of reputation points and badges, earned through answering questions and doing certain tasks. Since they somewhat accurately convey knowledge of software development, users have begun putting links to their Stack Overflow profiles on their resume. Thus, gamification can be beneficial to both the website/application and its users.
One of the highest scoring members on Stack Overflow. The line below the reputation is the number of gold, silver, and bronze badges that the user has.
Example of a gold badge. The user wants the badge, and Stack Overflow wants the user to want the badge.