This summer we are finally developing the mobile version of the UVM main website. When this project was in the initial planning phase, I imagined our mobile site to be a CSS-modified version of the main UVM website that fit better on mobile devices. In researching the project not only did I discover that mobile sites serve a different functions than our traditional web presence, but I also found that I needed to rethink my traditional approaches to web development. Not only should the aesthetics of a mobile website be different but the organization and actual content needed to be retooled. Granted, we are not creating new content for the mobile site, but much of the project has involved determining which, how and how much of our current web content is included in our mobile site. Enter the work of our predecessors.
Selecting a Strategy
It has been a distinct advantage to be a “late follower” on the mobile front. In perusing other university web sites, it’s easy to see who has mastered the concept of delivering true mobile content and who put a mobile window dressing on their traditional site. Early on I became interested in the iMobileU community and the Kurogo Mobile Framework. The Framework provides the opportunity to rapidly develop a “true” mobile site driven by various feeds (XML, RSS, KML) and static HTML pages. It turns out that much of our key content (news, directory, calendar) needed only minor modification to be plugged into the framework and other content (courses, campus tour) was easily converted to feeds to drive other modules.
Selecting which content to focus our mobile site on has been remarkably easy. We already manage the web presentation of most the most appropriate mobile content, the only areas that we have not been able to tap into yet are Dining Menus and Shuttle Schedules. I am hoping we can build strategic partnerships to include this data soon.
Give Them What They Want
Mobile users want to use your site to quickly find information on the go. They may be looking to call someone on campus, the location of an event, information about a course, or simply the latest news. Information should be current, streamlined, easy to read on a small screen and interconnected. Our challenge will be to expand on our mobile offerings while maintaining this simplicity and ease of use. Luckily, the Kurogo Framework offers a great jumping off point in just that type of effort.