PolicyTracker’s adventures in mobileland
Apr 18, 2011 by Martin Sims

Blog

TagsBlog, Mobile

Why did we decide to take our site mobile? You may find the answer curious. And curiouser…

PT mobile screengrabYou can now read this page, or any other on our website, on your mobile. There are some instructions here, but basically it’s pretty simple.

Click on the links in our email news alerts or access the website direct and you will automatically get our “mobile version”.

You can also be forgiven for asking why it has taken us so long! Mobile content is not new, in fact I remember doing a magazine cover on this very topic a decade ago.

However, until recently I didn’t think reading content on a tiny screen would be much use for PolicyTracker readers. Our articles are quite long and analytical, not the “snippets” format which seemed to work best on mobile. Moreover, many web pages were far too big when viewed on a small screen, and the scrolling back and forth made them virtually unreadable.

It wasn’t a futurologist that changed my mind, but Lewis Carroll. I had been singing the praises of Alice in Wonderland to my seven year old daughter and some of my students at the University of East London, but couldn’t find an unedited version.

AliceBut it must be out of copyright, I thought, is it available on the internet? Project Gutenberg came to the rescue with a fantastic edition, complete with great illustrations.

My colleague Mike Newlands had been telling me how he had thrown out 300 books and replaced them with with a Kindle. Not having one I wondered whether you could do the same thing on your mobile. A quick download of  Stanza and I was soon reading Alice on my iPhone.

50 pages later I started to wonder whether my views on long articles and mobiles hadn’t been a little hasty!

Properly formatted pages seemed to be the key to readability and after trying a few solutions we settled on a resized and redesigned version of our original site, courtesy of the original developers, Qunitagroup. We chose this solution because it can be viewed on any mobile browser. The disadvantage is that it doesn’t download pages for offline viewing but the apps that do this are only available for single operating systems, usually the iPhone.

I’ve certainly found it a useful alternative to having my laptop permanently open, but software development is all about meeting user needs, so please let us know what you think!


Sims sign2

Martin Sims, Managing Editor, PolicyTracker