Adapting Your Content for the Mobile Age

Today’s guest blog post is written by Christy Warren, Onboarding Client Trainer, Patron Technology.

Two things have happened to me recently that have caused me to think about my “phone” differently. First, I saw a post from someone complaining about the cost of their new smartphone. “A phone should not be $700!” they moaned. Yes, things have changed now since most cell carriers have stopped offering “free” phones with a 2-year contract. That may be causing our sticker shock, but there’s more at play that we’re not always recognizing right away.

It’s a phone, yes. But, it’s also:

  • Your main camera (chances are, the camera in your phone is probably better than any other camera you have in your house)
  • Your connection to the internet
  • Your GPS
  • Your link to your social network
  • Your device to kill time playing games when waiting for your kids/plane/train/dinner
  • Your means to chat with friends
  • Your virtual wallet where you can pay for things both online and in real life
  • Your tracking device to record your healthy (or unhealthy) activities.

I could keep going, but you get the picture. We are carrying tiny 6-inch computers in our pockets, and even for as much as $700, that’s a pretty darn good investment in my opinion.

So, as all of this has been mulling about in my head, the second thing happened just last night. A dear friend was using her phone… (ahem)… mobile device… to find something on a website and commented, “I really hate mobile websites.” I asked her why and she explained it was because they have reduced content and what you were able to find on their actual site isn’t available on their mobile site.

So, now that we use tiny hand-held computers for so much of our interaction with businesses, how can businesses make sure our experience is a good one? How can they deliver the content that is most relevant when and where we need it? The three most common options are:

  • A mobile website – which is a complete stand-alone website designed with mobile devices in mind
  • A responsive website – this option adjusts your current website into formats based upon the screen size of the viewer (there are multiple types of responsive design)
  • An app – a fully functional program that users download to their phone that includes formatted content from a website and from other sources

After reading many opinions on this topic from others, including Gene Carr’s post from back in 2012, the general consensus is: it depends. You have to consider what you are trying to accomplish and how your users interact with the content you’re offering. In fact, here’s a great post from (with images) about how each works and the pros and cons of each of these options if you want to know more.

It might feel cool to say you have an app or a fully dedicated mobile website, but it’s not always practical. I’m personally partial to responsive web design because it tailors the functionality of the site to be conducive to whatever device I’m using. In other words, I get to see everything in a format that works for my device. I can’t tell you how many apps I’ve deleted after downloading or mobile sites I’ve griped about just like my friend – because the content wasn’t worth it.

When it comes to arts organizations, your patrons may only interact with you once or twice a year, or sometimes even less than that. So, letting them have access to everything your website has to offer while viewing on a mobile device helps them have a more robust experience as they explore. And responsive design can also be cheaper to setup and maintain, which also helps you as a non-profit.  

So if you’re thinking about a website redesign, you may want to make sure you’re considering those tiny computers we all carry with us these days. And please, let’s stop calling it a phone.

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