Just to let you know I wasn’t kidding when I said I was going to start moving on site improvements, reader Sven has developed draft versions of a mobile website. These still need some refining, but I wanted to give you a look-see and the opportunity to comment.
YOU NEED TO LOAD THEM ON A MOBILE DEVICE. Loading them on your desktop might be entertaining, but we want comments from people using it in the intended manner.
Note only the first page of each works, and the links go back to the site. (Personally, I’d like to see the turquoise on the desktop version incorporated here but colors are the easiest design issue we have to contend with)
Sven did intend his design to be cross platform, and I think it looks nice on my Mac, but my ad service protested. First, they said mobile designs are all about speed and maximizing the viewing space. They highlighted this post as the sort of designs that they thought made sense for mobile devices.
So even though he cleaned up the right column and created the clever “Explore” button, what is now on the right probably gets relegated to a combo of a bar across the top with links in it and the Explore button.
Second, they are really really over the moon keen about a service called Onswipe for iPads. The problem from my perspective is that Onswipe is designed to run as a native application, and they’ve rethought all the design parameters. That means they are super visual (which does not do a text heavy site like mine any favors) and they don’t serve pages in the blog reverse chronological order. MSM sites seem to like it (remember, they are more visual to begin with) but they have also done heavy customization (iPad users no doubt notice the difference, say, in the NY Times app on their computer v. their iPad).The ad folks love it because iPad users swipe though pages quickly, so they get 3X the page views on the iPad that they do on a desktop (I wonder how long it will take advertisers to figure out some of these swipes are so fast as to be junk views). It is a non-starter now as far as I am concerned, because they don’t incorporate comments sections (!). They promise to have it in the next few months.
These are the standard templates and I hate them. You can see how they presuppose a picture-dominated design. They say they will help customize them but I am pretty leery:
What concerns me more fundamentally is that this medium seems to be hostile to what this site is about, which often is deep digging into complex topics. This note from someone at my ad service confirmed that:
I don’t think you are truly accepting the concept of making a site Tablet friendly. Text heavy is bad for a 10 inch screen. I have visited your site on an iPad and it is a long process to try and read more than the articles on the home page. In order for someone to be easily able to navigate all of your content you need to have a system that puts it all at their fingertips. That is what Onswipe as well as probably 5 other startups are doing right now and getting millions of dollars in venture capital to do so. Every major news publication is creating custom applications and HTML5 versions of their newspapers because a regular site does not work at all for mobile.
I got a message from a tech savvy, sympathetic reader that I found depressing:
I think you’re missing a conceptual frame about mobile. It’s very important to recognize that ipad’s and smartphones are just different than pc’s.
When I started blogging in 2002, a lot of people made the mistake of assuming that blogs and television were the same, because both had screens. I’m not kidding. It took the form of “anyone can say anything without editors unlike TV”. This complaint actually revealed how little these people understood about blogs and media in general. They didn’t get the ability to correct and update posts, but they also didn’t understand two things about social media. One, fundamentally blogs are not a limited bandwidth medium, and two, blogs have a social filter. You can start a new blog in five minutes, you can’t start a new Sunday show without enormous capital and social connections. You also can criticize a blog post using a relatively equalized platform (comments or another blog), you can scream at your TV if you disagree with what’s on, but that’s about it.
This was both a social and a technological difference. It’s not just that the web and TV are technically different. Social group editing for blogs was different in form and hierarchy than TV producing. These kinds of differences are common whenever there’s a leap in format. The first movies were filmed plays, Yahoo was essentially a phone directory, the first web in the 1990s didn’t have blogs b/c people were porting newspapers to the web directly. Eventually a native format for the medium emerges.
This is what iPads represent, a different medium. In terms of its technology, the use of hands and swiping changes how people interact with the content. Richer, more visual content is easier to look into, including audio, video, video games, books, and interactive content. It’s the CD-ROM fantasy the media fanboys thought would emerge in the mid-1990s. For NC, this probably means associating pictures with your content, as you do with your link posts. Socially, the mobile system is actually more oriented towards services like twitter and facebook than comments, and frankly, it’s more like television (sadly) in the power it is pushing back to the publisher. This isn’t to say you should think about getting rid of the comment section, because you obviously have to combine your mobile and PC workflow if nothing else.
This is just a conceptual frame for you, and it might explain the Onswipe template. I have some issues with the Onswipe visuals, mostly they don’t fit within your established workflow of reverse chronological posting and they get rid of the community. Those problems can be solved either through modification of your workflow, or giving them a clear visual hierarchy, like segmenting your posts and your guest-posts into sections or finding a way to highlight important stories or something like that on the mobile site.
You can see why I avoid dealing with site administration and act like the cobbler whose children go unshod. I wonder if the proliferation of mobile devices will be the end of blogging and more important, of the ability of blogs to affect the collective discourse, and the answer may be yes.