If the folks at Starcut are going to proudly announce that they mobilize brands and media and charge a newspaper to mobilize the said newspaper’s website, then they should educate themselves on the standards of the mobile user experience.
Major rule of the mobile web: Give the User a Choice. Don’t assume that they want the full website or that they want a reduced site for mobile. Just because a script has detected that the browser coming to the site is a mobile browser, doesn’t mean the reader/user wants to be forced into a locked sandbox with no exit. Don’t assume that every user wants to reduce their data usage, some of us have unlimited plans. Give the user a choice.
Here are a few examples of Mobile Sites that do the User Experience right by giving the reader/user a choice to either view the mobile version or to switch over to the “classic”, “full”, “regular” version of the website:
Why does this matter? Well, not every Nokia or Sony Ericsson or Blackberry or insert name of mobile device is a smartphone with Opera Mini or a version of the Webkit or Gecko mobile browsers, but then again, not every Nokia or Sony or Blackberry or other mobile device is a simple device with a simple mobile web browser.
I think it is great that more and more websites offer mobile versions that are stripped down and load fast for mobile devices, but if you are going to strip out choice along with kilobytes, this is not good.
My Nokia N95 has a full featured web browser that renders most websites, except heavily AJAX sites, quite nicely. I have an unlimited data plan. Between my Nokia’s browser and my data plan, I want to see the full version of most websites unless I need information quickly and then the mobile version is usually fine.
Yesterday, I left the house in a rush to meet up with Lauren Isaacson in Encino so that we could have lunch together before she departs for Vancouver. I was heading north on the 405 and passing the Long Beach Airport when I realized that I left my paper copy of the LA Times Food section. So, I did what I would normally do in this situation, I opened my Nokia’s web browser and typed “latimes.com”, instead of getting the usual, full web version of the LA Times website, I was forced into the mobile version of the site with no exit out.
No link to the full version. No links to the Food section. No ability to get out of the reduced web version. I then went to Google to search for the article and the Google search took me back to the front page of the mobile site with no link to the full version of the LATimes.com. Here is the mobile site that I saw with no link to the full version of the LATimes.com at either the top of the mobile page nor at the bottom:
I was very frustrated.
I was mad in the immediate situation of trying to locate information that was still live on the full version of the website but I was unable to get to the information because the mobile version of the site did not let me go there. I was mad as a web & mobile user experience designer to experience bad UX design first hand. I was frustrated that Starcut has probably charged the LA Times a lot of money to piss off loyal readers like me.
In the end, I had to use a desktop computer at Lauren’s parent’s house to search the LA Times’ website for the article on the restaurant we were to go to. Itzik Hagadol is excellent, especially their 20 salads for $8.99.
But the lack of ability to exit the LA Times’s mobile site from a mobile browser is not excellent. It would be excellent if Starcut would revisit the site and add a simple link at the top or the bottom of each mobile page, giving the reader/user the option to go to the full non-mobile version of the site from their mobile browser.
No. I keep trying, but no, I can’t.
Why? I can only get as far as the above title before Movable Type’s AJAX conspires against my Nokia N95’s browser. I have tried to use the file uploader, which I was able to use from my phone’s browser with MT 3.4, but in MT 4 the file uploader uses Lightbox and I can’t toggle around in it enough to press “upload” on my phone. And for whatever reason, in the mobile browser, I am unable to fill any text into the “body” of the post. Frustrating. I could do all of this from my Nokia N80 and the N95 with MT 3.4, but not with Movable Type 4.0.
Bah. Desktop/Laptop-centric blogging software. Bah.
Why try and why care? In less than 5 days, I get on a plane for Europe for the great “Ditch Thanksgiving 2007 Tour” or the “Let’s cash in frequent flyer miles go to London, Ireland, and Spain for 3 weeks Tour”. Whilst I am gone, I don’t want to pay AT&T my arm and Scruffy’s leg for international data fees to post photos and text to this blog, so I will be using my UK Vodafone sim chip with Pay As You Go that I have overly topped up. Only problem is that sometime in the last year, since I was last last ( previous to the last time) in the UK, Vodafone changed their PAYG plan and it is really really hard to mobile blog with the non-contract PAYG.
When I was in the UK for various events in 2006, I was able to to use about £20 per week on PAYG to send my photos as MMS’s to my Flickr account, Flickr would then send them on to my blog. At the beginning of Ocober, when I was in London for FOWA 2007, I found that it appeared that I sent photos to Flickr via MMS, my N95 confirmed the photo was sent, and later when I would check there would be no photo on Flickr. Vodafone UK’s MMS was not interacting with Flickr.
When I attempted to use Lifeblog, it was a no go as Lifeblog uses email/ISP data to send and with a PAYG account one does not get email/ISP data. I then tried to use Flickr’s mobile uploader, but that did not work as it wanted to go through the MMS to send the photo. ShoZu was not working for me at all while in London and upon reading ShoZu’s forum’s it is not enough to change your Access Point, you have to reactivate for each APN.
The best part is that Vodafone PAYG’s data plans, both 3G & WAP, have Flickr blocked as adult / unappropriate content. The whole week I was in the UK this Oct, I tried to get Vodafone to unblock it to no avail.
Vodafone, you may have the best 3G connections in the UK and Ireland, but you live in the dark ages. Flickr should not be blocked, nor should my MMS. If I pay you for a sim chip and top up, let me use the PAYG £s however I want. Don’t trottle me. Give me 3G unblocked, give me MMS, give me email/ISP. I will pay for it, give it to me.
Today is International Be Really Nice to Web Designers and Developers Day, which means that you, lovely internet public, should upgrade your browser.
Still using, Internet Explorer? Consider switching to Firefox or Opera or Safari (yeah, you want to do it, go buy a Mac).
If switching browsers is not your thing, then please, please, pretty please on top, be very nice and upgrade to Internet Explorer 7.
Yes, I know, Microsquash makes it hard, you have to find the Update area in the Start menu of your PC and then download about 62 security updates, but do it. Do it tonight before you go to bed, leave the MS update running while you sleep and hopefully when you wake up, your computer is happy and your favorite web designer and/or developer will be happy too.
Spread the love. Switch or Upgrade.