Taking a web site to the small screen comes with a host of considerations: device width, available bandwidth, touch versus click interfaces, browsers with limited functionality, etc. At the same time, the simplicity of these mobile browsing environments lowers the barrier to entry for developers. Some basic HTML and CSS is all that is required to get started. In my research, I have learned a few things and decided to put the learning into action by creating a mobile web template available for anyone to download, remix, and reuse.
Here are some tips, best practices, and design conventions I learned along the way.
- One column is a design convention worth following (See m.facebook.com, or m.youtube.com, or m.twitter.com).
- Pick the essence or core pieces of your site to deliver to your mobile users. Think abridged version.
- Follow the “m” URL conventions (m.delicious.com OR amazon.mobi OR lifeonterra.com/m/).
- Minify and optimize your CSS (See Clean CSS ).
- Plan for low bandwidth – Keep images close to 1KB or under.
- Test on multiple mobile browsers and emulators.
- Build your app so that it loads only necessary data when requested (Use Ajax or Server-Side includes).
I’m interested in any feedback or questions so please share in the comments. I’ve also created a more robust mobile application example for TERRA: The Nature of Our World available at lifeonterra.com/m/. If anyone is interested, I’m happy to share some of that code as well.
I like me some Wordle. For quick visualizations of trends in text, it can provide a quick snapshot. I’m heading home tomorrow as the Internet Librarian conference winds down, but I wanted to see what trends might appear if the Internet Librarian 2009 conference program was given the Wordle treatment. The result is below with stop words and some noise removed (e.g., library, libraries, time notations, conference track numbers, etc.).
Some of my quick observations: Google and books appear at about the same size. Mobile looks like it’s gaining some ground. Twitter makes an appearance. What else does this word cloud communicate about the tech side of the profession? Click on the thumbnail to get the full view.
My chapter “Blip.tv and Digital Video Collections in the Library” for the recently released Library Mashups edited by Nicole Engard was in need of some code samples. I wanted to show how to use the APIs I kept mentioning in the writing which focused on the digital library mashup of TERRApod. So… here they are in their basic, rudimentary glory.
- blip.tv API demo – http://www.lib.montana.edu/~jason/files/api/bliptv/
- blip.tv API code – http://www.lib.montana.edu/~jason/files/api/bliptv/index.phps
- YouTube API demo – http://www.lib.montana.edu/~jason/files/api/youtube/
- YouTube API code – http://www.lib.montana.edu/~jason/files/api/youtube/index.phps
The complete code is available for download from my code archive. Think of these examples as the raw materials for building mashups with the blip.tv API and YouTube API. The blip.tv example relies on PHP 5, but I made the YouTube PHP4 compatible and you could adapt the code from there for the blip.tv API. I also included some CURL code in the comments of the files just in case your host requires it. If you have questions or improvements, drop a comment.
A quick word about the book: If you are at all interested in mashups and web services, take a closer look. The book covers one profession’s (the librarian) application of web services to library data problems. Contributions from industry leader’s like John Blyberg, Ross Singer and Karen Coombs make this an interesting read for anyone interested in how web services and open data are changing the nature of web development for libraries.
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In taking a survey of my info gathering and recent web dev activities, I noticed something. First, there is a lot of data in my daily channels of news and info. Raging river of data is probably a better description. Second, the trend in our local library development and app building has been to bring these data bits into manageable streams. Witness:
And these are just local library apps at Montana State… There are open web services and desktop clients (FriendFeed and TweetDeck) that make similar attempts to aggregate data and add value. Wheat from the chaff… Signal from noise… By and large, this has been a role that libraries have played within the physical (our selection of books and relevant, vaild info). I’m wondering how well we can latch onto this trend of aggregation and extend ourselves into the virtual.
So, I’m back at home while the Computers in Libraries 2009 conference is wrapping up. On the flight home, I got to thinking about major themes and it struck me that there might be a way to represent the themes visually. Enter wordle. If you aren’t familiar with wordle, you can paste source text or even pass URLs of feeds to a simple web form and get a “wordcloud” of major terms. I thought I might try pasting the Computers in Libraries 2009 program text into wordle. Here’s the wordle representation of cil2009. (I removed some basic noise words like keynote, track A, 11:30, etc.)
Not surprising to see “Library”, “Libraries”, “Search” and “Social” as some top terms. But, I am glad to see the terms around the edges making some headway. Terms like “mobile”, “development”, and “innovative” suggest that the profession is moving forward. One missing term that I’m hearing more and more is “embed” or embedding”. I think it’s an important concept and starts to get at a new mode of library services: embedded library instruction, embedded reference services, embedded library web services in the form of widgets and gadgets, etc. Just my thoughts from a cursory scanning… If you have other thoughts about the cil2009 wordcloud, feel free to leave a comment.
Computers in Libraries starts tomorrow and it’s always a great time. I arrived in DC earlier today from an uneventful flight which is always a good thing. Met up with Karen Coombs and Michael Sauers for some SuperHappyTerrific sushi and now I’m collecting my thoughts regarding my upcoming workshops and presentation.
Web Services for Libraries (with Karen)
Sunday, March 30 from 1:00PM – 4:00 PM
Widgets, Gadgets, and Mobie Apps for Libraries (with Karen and Michael)
Sunday, March 30 from 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM
As web content continues to grow and the noise-to-signal ratio increases, it has become important for libraries to find ways to get into users’ common web paths: the social networking sites such as Facebook, the web portals such as iGoogle, learning management systems such as Blackboard, even mobile devices such as the iPhone. Our panel of experts looks at creating widgets or gadgets that allow users to have basic library search and browse functions in these new user environments free from the catalog or library website. They demo and teach how to build live applications that provide gateway searching for library journals, books, articles, and much more. Come learn how to play in these new environments and to give users options for searching and consuming library materials in their own learning spaces.
The Portable Library: Going “Atomic” with Library Web Services
Monday, March 30 from 10:30 AM – 11:45 AM
There is an opportunity for libraries to braodcast into our users’ common web paths (like Facebook and iGoogle) and to create mobile library apps that allow users to have basic library search functions in these new user environments. Live applications from MSU Libraries illustrate: a Google Gadget that allows gateway searching for library journals, books, and articles and a series of OpenSearch plugins that let patrons search library content from within the web browser. Come learn about the simple steps you can take to make these widgets and research tools happen at your library.
Presentation files and handouts for all sessions are available at http://www.lib.montana.edu/~jason/talks.php.
Demos and “Downloadables” for all sessions are available at http://www.lib.montana.edu/~jason/files.php.
I’m also trying to track the official tags and hashtags for the conference. It’s looking like “#cil2009″ for twitter and “cil2009″ for all other tagging. See everyone around Crystal City or teh Internets…