My Plea to the Blogosphere: Be Mobile-Ready

By Michael Flanakin @ 5:52 PM :: 2487 Views :: Technology, Predictions :: Digg it!

As I’ve spent more and more time catching up on my blogroll with my phone, I’ve realized just how far we really need to go to truly support Web 2.0 (and beyond) -- well, my [more than likely] misguided view of what Web 2.0 should be about, anyway. I've tried to outline the top ten in this, my 10 mobile-ready commandments...

  1. Thou Shalt Employ Full-Text Posts. I can’t stand it when I start to read a post that I’m really interested in, but come to find out that it only has the first 500 characters or so. I want to read it all. I don’t want to have to wait until I get to my PC to finish it. Of course, I can click on the obligatory “read more” link, but I’m risking 2 things: (1) chances are that the target page isn’t mobile-ready, either (I’ll touch on links next); and, (2) Mobile IE only supports one, non-tabbed browser window, which means I can’t bounce between different windows. They do a pretty good job of caching for the back button, but when I’m in the middle of reading things on my phone, I tend to get interrupted or have to put it down for a bit. I’d rather just have everything all on one page so I can read it easier without having to scroll thru links, bring up new pages, and then return back to old pages. That process can get very tiresome. I do admit my issues with this are in part because of and can be resolved with software -- I use Bloglines to read my blogs. Still, I stand by this one.
  2. Thou Shalt Exploit Mobile-Ready Links. All too often -- like EVERY link I’ve ever seen in a blog post -- we copy a URL of a page and don’t even think twice about the reader. It’s time to be mobile-ready. We need to enable our mobile readers with the ability to bring up these third party pages without depending on the mobile browser to decide how to format a non-mobile-ready page. I admit that I have had this same problem in the past, but I set a precedence to fix that in my blog posts back in September. I’m introducing my mobile-ready icon: Mobile-ready link. From here on -- at least until there’s a standard for this sort of thing -- I vow to provide mobile-ready links after every link I use in my blog posts. This way, mobile users will be able to consume everything related to my post, not just my comments on it. Without some sort of identifier validating the link, there’s no telling what will happen when you try to load a non-mobile-ready link. Just to touch on my first point, if you feel you just can’t live without summary views, at least provide a mobile-ready link to the full content.
  3. Thou Shalt Summarize Linked Posts. More often than we probably notice, we tend to say things like, “This post is completely misguided,” or, “I just read this article and it’s the best! Check it out!” Well, this one goes beyond mobile, but it is worse for mobile users, but the problem is, as a user who has no idea what you’re linking to, I have no idea what the target web page says. Please summarize it for me.  At least frame it in the slightest form (i.e. “This intro to generics is completely misguided” or “I just read this article on non-deterministic turing machines and it’s the best! Check it out!”). Having an idea of what the linked page discusses can tell me if it’s worth my time to dig into it. Just give me at least the smallest idea of what idea it’s trying to get across so I don’t have to look for myself. Remember: my mobile time is usually short and mobile bandwidth is limited.
  4. Thou Shalt Localize Aggregated Feeds. For [place your deity/profanity here]’s sake, localize your freakin’ aggregated feeds!!! I have no problem with the idea of sharing information on one site in multiple languages, but I have a huge problem when there’s only one aggregation and I have to skip past posts in 5 different languages, which is completely oblivious to my language settings. My mobile device can’t read Cantonese, for instance, and when it tries, it sometimes freaks out because the memory load is seemingly double (if not more) than normal. All you need to do is provide language-specific aggregations and then throw an all-in aggregation for good measure. That’s all I ask.
  5. Thou Shalt Not Renew Prior Convictions. This one is a huuuuge pet peeve of mine. Admittedly, it’s not just a mobile issue, but it’s an issue nonetheless. If you see others posting on a topic and don’t have anything to add to the topic, don’t post! Sifting thru post after post that all point to each other is getting overly ridiculous. If you don’t have something original to add to a discussion, just leave it alone! The only well-respected bloggers (and I think I can go as far as to say outspoken people, in general) are the ones who have something to add to the story. If all you do is repeat, then nobody will want to listen. When I’m on a mobile device, that makes my tolerance for such waste of bandwidth and time even lower.
  6. Thou Shalt Value Brevity. This one isn’t really all that bad of a problem, but it still happens. Let’s try to keep our titles short, sweet, and to the point. I hate seeing post titles that are too long and wrap 3 or 4 times on a mobile screen. Have some respect! I realize that it’s sometimes necessary, but we need/love our space in the mobile world. For instance, here’s an example: “If you ask a Yes/No question, make sure the user also knows what happens when they say No.” What the crap is that? That could’ve been condensed a lot!
  7. Thou Shalt Value Order and Tranquility. When people format their text in all kinds of crazy colors and sizes -- especially sizes -- all you're doing is making it harder and harder to read on a mobile device. I'm not saying all formatting is bad; just use it judiciously. Be sure that your formatting adds to the message or makes it easier to read and understand. If it goes against any of these principles, remove it. There's just no reason to bold-red-25pt your statement because you want to get it across. Bold-red, or even just bold, should work just fine.
  8. Thou Shalt Separate Posts and Articles. Perhaps this isn't that big of a problem, but there's a difference between a blog post and an article. Typically, blog posts are one-time discussions regarding the topic at hand. You may have a long-running set of posts that map together, and that's fine, but don't post a 5 page article which depicts a step-by-step process to perform a complex task. These are better off as articles. The way I look at it is that an article will probably be something you might want to come back to and update, whereas a blog post would be left alone and another one would be created. Another way of looking at it is the degree of information included. Blog posts should be seemingly short, sweet, and to the point while an article may discuss the ins-and-outs of a particular problem. If in doubt, make it an article and keep it separate from your weblog and follow that up with a simple post describing and linking to the article. If you have a lot of articles, create a feed for them. As long as the feeds content style/type is known, I'm all for it.
  9. Thou Shalt Not Spam Tech Blogs. If you run a technical blog, please try to keep the non-technical posts to a minimum. If at all possible, maintain a few different blogs for different topics. This also allows you to manage blog categories better. For instance, I have 5 mini-blogs for different things I like to blog about. My main tech blog, tech articles, product feedback, and two personal blogs to track shows/movies I watch and places I go. Each has its purpose and keeping them separate allows anyone interested to consume only what they want.
  10. Thou Shalt Respect Thy Resources. There were obviously undertones of this in several other pleas. Honestly, this is probably the most important one. All I ask is that you respect the resources mobile users have at their disposal. Take these main three into consideration: time, space, and bandwidth. Typically -- at least for me, personally -- mobile users don't intend to spend a lot of time on their mobile device. I usually check weblogs when I'm waiting for something; whether it be at a stoplight, stand-still traffic, in line for something, or just plain waiting for something/someone. If I have 5-10 minutes and I'm away from a computer, this is good blog-reading time. Because I do this in short time frames, I don't want to deal with any [aforementioned] issues and I want to get thru as much content as possible. I'll leave it at that for the time issue. Space is probably the first thing that comes to people's minds when thinking about mobility. Yes, it's true; my space is very limited. This is why we need mobile-ready content without crazy formatting. Granted, the space issue goes deeper, but these are the key areas I've noticed the most. Finally, bandwidth is also an issue. Virtually nobody has direct problems with bandwidth; however, virtually everyone has indirect bandwith issues. Whether it be due to heavy site graphics, posting point-less material, or any of the other annoyances, remember that anything you post takes up bandwidth. All I ask is that you make it worth my while by providing something of true interest.

I started this list back in August and am just now getting around to finalizing a posting it. There are so many things I want to say about being mobile-ready, so I just had to sum them up and get the post done. I'm sure others will come up with their own pleas and I welcome them. Anything to help enhance moble-readiness! I truly believe this will become more and more of a factor in 2007.