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« IFYI | Main | Firstest with the leastest »

Jul 08, 2012


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I'm not one to talk, having neglected optimizing Greensboro 101 for mobile devices, but now that I've undertaken the effort, it's not as complicated as it sounds -- well, it's complicated and time consuming, but not difficult. The fact is, with the new standards of HTML5 and CSS3, there is less of a need for the expensive development of apps. Unless there is some specific programmatic need for an app, these new web standards allow "websites" to look and act like apps on smaller screens, with the advantage of deploying open, versus proprietary, standards.

So that's the approach I'm taking, what's called "responsive web design," the process of making web content adapt to the device it is being viewed on. Instead, then, of creating multiple applications for multiple devices, one merely designs a few layouts for a few screen sizes. The proof will be in the pudding, but it's looking good so far. (And it avoids the kind of "device not supported" fail Ed encountered, any device with a web browser is supported.)

As for the notion that apps on tablets are "saviors" of newsorgs...

"Richard [Gingras, head of Google News] sees the iPad as a fatal distraction for media companies. Too many publishers looked at the tablet as the road home to their magazine format, subscription model, and expensive full-page ads. The format of a single device does not change the fundamental ecosystem underneath it, and this shiny tablet has taken media companies' eyes off of the ball. We haven't seen any significant success stories of subscription rates on tablets." -- Matt Stempeck

Responsive web design, as Roch stated above, is built into recent (and responsible) WordPress themes. It scales (the magic Scoble word used slightly differently here) and it's the only kind of theme framework we'll consider for a WordPress site nowadays. Also right about HTML5 and CSS3 championed for a long time by Erik Fadiman (of Seattle and ConvergeSouth fame), his position is that if you can't use HTML5 and CSS3 in the next few years with support for tablets and smartphones, you better get out of the web design business (and he's right). The N+R's electronic edition is Flash, which isn't supported by any iOS (there's a YouTube workaround/app). But when iPads took off, Steve Jobs (z''l) pretty much killed Flash. Adobe had a hard time digesting that about one of its premiere products (as did the Flash developers who no longer make that kind of money).

Adobe is providing iOS friendly tools. Like any new tool, it's not cheap in the early stages and the N+R bought its system perhaps at the end of the "Flash is cool" 3-year lifetime of anything online. Bad timing. Needs to be replaced. Costly.

The conundrum is always: who's your audience? If they're reading at a desktop or notebook computer, no need to change. But if 37% of most online hits are tablet or phone, obviously a change is needed. We haven't used Flash in a website in 3-4 years, mostly because it's almost impossible for anyone to self-edit their site (which is the type we build) but moreover, we read the writing on the virtual wall: Flash was going away.

I agree that the N+R's e-edition is cumbersome and I rarely use it (hubby is a loyal subscriber and I kinda like the paper in the morning). But in reality, responsive design up front enables a site to have a real 3-4 year lifetime, which is a fact that a lot of site owners don't like (I have a 12-yo car, why do I need a website every 3-4 years?). The easiest (have no idea of the cost) thing I can see is for the N&R to provide feed that could be used by Flipboard and the like on a phone or tablet. They're feeding to Flash; they could feed to xml or whatever Flipboard et al needs. I hope they consider it.


I found a great mobile-optimized WP theme for my own blog back in May and it works wonders on iDevices like the iPhone and iPad. It always bugs me when I visit a site (ahem) that isn't optimized for these new ways of browsing the web. If they wanted to make the effort they certainly could. Mobile computing is the fastest growing sector and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. The writing is on the wall, time to re-paint the place.


We're just beginning a site redesign at the day job, and, yes, responsive design was clearly the least-bad of several options. (And mobile accessibility is huge; close to 90% of undergraduates use smartphones.)

I'd love to think a good website will last even four years, but what has struck me in working with a total of six site iterations at multiple employers in the past eight years is how quickly sites get out of date -- four years is optimistic. And I say that not just because of stuff on the user end, but also stuff on the CMS and back end. For that reason alone, I think open-source CMS has a much brighter future for small and medium-sized organizations than do proprietary systems.


Olive will squeeze the N&R for a $100K upgrade and all will be fine. Scalability ain't never been cheap.


Seems like a simple solution would be to download the free N&R App from iTunes?

Ed Cone

"'Your device is not supported for display by the Online Application' was the message I got via the web and the paper's mobile app."


Well that's just down right silly...


Ed, were you using the N+R's mobile app to (try to) read the e-edition? Or just the website?

Ed Cone

Both. It works nicely for the website, but the website is not the full paper.


@Ed, right. It works for the website. The e-edition is Flash and I didn't think the app would read that. How do you propose they maintain an income if they give away the entire paper for free?

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