Tag Archive for mobile

Mobile Theme

Catlin Gabel has launched a mobile theme for its website. If you visit the site on your mobile phone, you should automatically see the mobile interface and have an opportunity to add an icon to your home screen. Please let me know if you run into bugs or usability issues on the mobile site!

Mobile theme or responsive theme?

The mobile theme technique has been around for a couple of years. The site autodetects the mobile device and loads a completely different theme for the site. More recently, developers have adopted responsive theming, where page elements adjust to the smaller screen size, for example by reflowing items or scaling down images.

A mobile theme made more sense for Catlin Gabel than a responsive theme. We were quoted a project cost three times larger to create the responsive theme, because this would have involved reworking the desktop theme. Creating a simpler, separate theme for mobile devices had a more reasonable price. Our current desktop theme is nearly three years old, so the school will likely redesign the entire site theme within a couple of years, so this mobile theme is temporary.

Getting around

We designed a new navigation system for the mobile theme, due to space constraints and the different priorities of mobile users. Site analytics revealed that users visited the calendar, athletics, and directory pages more often on phones than other devices, so we made these more prominent. At the same time, users visit the rest of the site in a similar pattern to desktop users. A single jump menu takes advantage of the scrolling select interface popular on phone operating systems, while providing access first to the most popular pages in the site and then all of the major site pages in alphabetical order.

Unlike most mobile themes, our interface allows one to get to just about any page on the site without having to switch to the desktop view. The mobile site is fully featured. Still, the ubiquitous “desktop view” link at the bottom allows for times when user prefers the desktop view.

While the mobile site has some issues, it achieves the immediate need of improving the mobile user experience while keeping the cost reasonable.

iBooks 2.0: Reinventing Textbooks? at MobilePortland

Thanks to Corey Pressmen, Steve Burt, Tim Lauer, and Thor Pritchard for sharing their insights at this event last night. I took away some great tidbits:

McGraw Hill and Exprima Media will soon release an anatomy ePub document, two years in the making.

The current disruption about mobile devices and textbooks is an extension of the Internet as a disruptive moment for the electronic distribution of instructional materials.

We are currently in a phase of multiple platforms vying for industry longevity and/or dominance. No wonder it feels so varied, shifting, and confusing.

http://inkling.com is one new publisher of enhanced electronic instructional materials.

A tension exists between instructor curation of electronic materials for a course and publisher curation of electronic materials for publication and state adoption.

One college is using http://www.epubbud.com as a free, simple, multi-platform ePub authoring environment. This stands in marked contrast to the proprietary, closed, iAuthor application recently released by Apple.

A number of education staff in the audience expressed that it would be impossible to require college students to all purchase from one platform. This makes me think of colleges that did exactly that with Mac laptops many years ago. I’m not sure how many of these programs are still around.

What does this all mean for secondary teachers? At this point in time, I imagine that only the very earliest adopters will be creating their own materials in iAuthor, whereas most will wait to see how this industry shakes out. If I were to recommend a solution to a school, I would encourage one to stick with web-based instructor curation for the time being, as it is the most multi-platform, media-rich, multi-user, linkable resource currently available. iAuthor would make sense if the school has a 1:1 iPad program, but one would need to be careful to maintain one’s own pedagogical style within the highly structured authoring environment of iAuthor.


Student Cellphone Photo Installation

In an elevator! I love the creativity and the public nature of the display. I only wish the elevator ride lasted longer!

Read the student’s reflection about the role of cellphone photos in his life.

Mobile Theme: WordPress vs. Drupal

How to enable a mobile them in WordPress

Install WPTouch. Congratulations, you are done! You automatically get a cleanly designed theme with dynamic drop-downs, a comment counter per post, and “mobile theme” toggle at the bottom.

How to enable a mobile theme in Drupal

Research various approaches. I decided go with the mobile theme option.

Select the most stable, current modules to support your approach, in my case Mobile Tools and Browscap.

Select a mobile theme. I have tested a number: A Cloudy Day, Adaptive Theme Mobile, Fusion Mobile, iUi, iWebKit, Mobile jQuery (not to be confused with jQuery Mobile), and Nokia Mobile.

Realize that these themes are pretty bare out of the box, and you have a lot of custom theming in your future!

A Cloudy Day

Fusion Mobile

Mobile jQuery

What is the problem?

I understand that it is easier to develop a mobile theme plug-in for WordPress, because content is managed in just one way. You have pages and posts, and a mobile theme just needs to organize them. Our Drupal site has many custom content types, views, blocks, and regions, and no mobile theme is going to automatically display them correctly out of the box. However, I had expected the theme designs themselves to be more mature than this.

I also find it totally unclear how to modify regions and block visibility in our Drupal site for the mobile theme. In our single-theme Drupal site, the theme template controls when and where certain regions exist, and the block system determines when to display block content within page regions. I want to organize the home page completely differently for the mobile theme, but now I have to learn how to define page regions and block visibility separately for the mobile theme. I will try to create a home page template in my new theme with unique regions and block content, but something tells me that this will not be easy. Or I could install modules to make display configuration more dynamic, but I do not want to add performance overhead for our non-mobile users.

Dear Drupal Themers

If you would like to submit a modest proposal for mobile theme development, please write me at kassissiehr (at) catlin.edu.

iPhone HDR

I am very impressed with the new iPhone HDR feature. My phone now does automatically what Photoshop only recently gained the ability to do with manually captured photos.

Single image

HDR image

The best camera is the one you have!

iPhone 4 First Impressions

I finally gave up my BlackBerry for an iPhone 4. I was perfectly happy with the BlackBerry for email, calendar, and taking photos but increasingly found myself in situations away from the office, during which a more capable device would have helped.

I had hoped that Android was equal to the iPhone, but reports of buggy early versions of ActiveSync and Facebook, compared to their mature iPhone counterparts, scared me off. Usability trumped joining an open app ecosystem.

BlackBerry just kept falling behind. For example, the community-contributed WordPress app required some arcane manual configuration on the phone, whereas the iPhone version Just Worked with only the blog URL!

The new device is fast, easy to use, and extremely capable. It’s a lot of fun, but I’m not getting carried away. Ultimately, it’s still a smartphone, and a computer is still far and away the most useful device.

Just two screens of apps so far! One pleasant surprise: the Comcast app provides fast access to voicemail messages and even DVR scheduling. Otherwise, my list of apps will look pretty familiar to iPhone veterans.

Phone reception has been flawless so far. I think we have it better here in Portland. Also, no “death grip” issues so far. That seems more like a juicy story for the press and a poorly handles PR moment for Apple than an actual issue for most users.

I ordered the phone through an AT&T store on Friday and received it on Wednesday.

Oh, and the iPhone costs me $40/month less than the BlackBerry, because it works without an enterprise server plan.

Post written entirely using WordPress for iPhone.

Sexting and Texting

Our middle school head recently asked for resources to help understand sexting within the context of other technological risks and students’ general texting habits. I came up with the following. Do you have other good resources?

ConnectSafely: Tips to prevent sexting

Pew Internet Teens and Mobile Phones Over the Past Five Years

Teens and Sexting – PEW report 2009

Which Is Epidemic — Sexting or Worrying About It?

Sexting — and Common Sense

danah boyd: how youth find privacy in interstitial spaces

danah boyd: teen socialization practices in networked publics

Teen Sex Culture and Technology

Our middle school counselor researched this topic and wrote the following article for parents. I’m interested in learning what other schools are doing in this area.