(or: “Why dual-authoring content for mobile is tres crappy“)

If you ever want to see a client’s face fall like a deflated cake, tell them that their new mobile site is going to require double the content management hours.

The design community does a whole lot of talking about showering the mobile end-user with fragrant petals of convenience. And to save ourselves frustration down the road, we try to code easily extensible websites. But in the de rigueur scramble to cram as much wow-factor into a 320px block of space as technically possible, let’s not forget that a mobile site is just as much of a living, breathing thing as its full-screen counterpart. And living things must be fed.

This is a particular issue on mobile sites dealing with dynamic lists of data – lists of homes for sale, for example – which are updated frequently. Empathy for your client here is key. Your clients have busy marketing departments whose copywriters just started internalizing the necessity of brevity online, and who have just come around to the idea of editing photos down for the web. They’re not ready (and should never have to be ready) to add yet another step to their internal processes in order to create content for mobile. The more additional work you can save them, and the more the mobile site is an extension of existing content, the more of a hero you are to your client.

A silent and unobtrusive hero, yes, but the deodorant industry has taught us that, sometimes, unobtrusive heroics are the best kind.

The Mungo.com full site includes dozens of disparate lists of homes all pulled from a central database, homes we wanted to allow users to browse on the mobile site.

We knew that we’d be selectively snagging database fields and rearranging their presentation for the mobile experience, but we hit a content-related issue immediately: the descriptions of the homes on the full site can get long – very long. While it would have served our needs to add another database field (“shortmobiledescrip” or somesuch) and asked the client to create 2 descriptions for every home, we decided instead to massage the design until the full text of each description worked. The decision to go this route is something we thank the God of Seamless Solutions for on a daily basis.

In the end, we think the long descriptions worked out well visually, and the client is blissfully unbothered by the diligent mobile gnomes working behind the scenes.

Check out the work on http://m.mungo.com

Onwards and upwards, my friends. Onwards and upwards.