As more and more folks surf the web on mobile devices such as the iPhone, the importance of web sites rendering properly in a mobile browser has increased substantially. Two recent experiences really brought this home to me, one negative and one quite positive.
Earlier this year, TV Guide Magazine started placing High Capacity Color Barcodes (HCCB) codes in the magazine such that if the iPhone user captured the code with a Microsoft tag reader application, they would be transported to related online information in their phone’s Safari browser. This worked spectacularly for videos, where a video might complement an article in the magazine. You scan the barcode with your iPhone and you are immediately taken to the related video. Where the idea fell apart was when the barcode delivered you to an article in the online version of TV Guide. Why? Because TV Guide had not optimized its web site for mobile use.
In TV Guide’s defense, they do have an iPhone application that gives you TV listings and articles. But this is an app based solution, not a browser based solution and the tag reading feature in their magazine took you to the browser based TV Guide web site. Clearly a major fail! TV Guide quietly discontinued the barcode feature in their magazine. Wonder why?
Not everyone is in the dark however. Recently I wanted to join a chat on Twitter but I needed to keep an eye on my daughter who was playing in another room away from my PC. The chat was controlled by use of a hashtag so I fired up the Twitter for iPhone client on my phone and searched on the hashtag to participate in the chat. The solution was not ideal and a bit clumsy. Fortunately, early in the chat I saw someone refer to a web site called “Tweetchat”. At first, I despaired, assuming I would have to go back to my office and get on my PC’s browser but I plugged the URL (http://tweetchat.com) into my mobile Safari on the off chance it might work. Success! In no time, I was taking advantage of Tweetchat’s excellent chatting interface right there on my phone. Now admittedly, the PC version does provide more real estate to work with but in a pinch the mobile version of the site filled the need perfectly.
So do I practice what I preach? Actually, yes I do. Both of my business sites are hosted on WordPress and there are several WordPress plug-ins available to make your site or blog mobile-ready. I use WordPress Mobile Pack which with just a few clicks made my sites more readable on mobile devices.
I know it is hard to keep up with changing technology but if you want to maximize your reach you have to make sure you are satisfying the needs of the mobile population.
Update 9/20/10: In their Fall Preview Issue, TV Guide used a barcode tag for the first time in months. To their credit, the tag launched a video in my iPhone. If we’re lucky, this will be a trend and TV Guide will only tag shortcuts to videos henceforth.