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A SWAT for making readers think about going mobile

Submitted by on Friday, 1 January 2010 No Comment

I’m not exactly a road warrior. If I were, my Blackberry home screen already would be filled with apps that keep me informed on the fly.

So it was a pleasant surprise this morning to click on a morning email update from the Los Angeles Times and have it automatically forward me to a mobile-optimized site.

No tiny graphics that made me continually enlarge the type if I wanted to read it. No pictures with text wrapped around them – you know, the type of design that looks great in print, OK on the Web but inspires migraines on a mobile device.

Instead, there was a link to the story I’d clicked on, as well as a neat little page of other links to top stories, entertainment, sports and various other sections. It all stayed within the confines of my Blackberry screen  – no annoying dragging the screen left or right – regardless of whether I held the phone horizontally or vertically.

The true beauty, though, was not in the mobile-optimized site. Those, while still rare for newspapers, are not unheard of.

What took my breath away was that it was so seamless. Something on the Los Angeles Times site knew that I was surfing from a mobile browser and automatically forwarded me to that side of the newspaper’s site. So simple. Yet so helpful to the reader.

Contrast this to the Washington Post, which does have a slick little mobile site but sent me to its regular Web site to click on a story from its morning email. I really, really, really wanted to read the story, so I played the Post’s silly little game of hokey-pokey through FIVE “continued on” pages.

The extra pages are annoying enough on a computer – particularly since I know they were created to artificially boost a site’s page view numbers at a cost of doing a disservice to readers who just want to read the dang story without clicking five times. They’re so hair-pullingly frustrating on mobile that the LA Times now will be my go-to source when I’m away from my computer.

So why don’t I simply install the Post mobile app on my phone? Well, I have now. It wasn’t painful, though it did take about four steps, and the instructions on the Post Web site were just enough off that I had to look for the app after I installed it.

But the fact is, forcing readers to install an extra application is making them jump through unnecessary hurdles, as the elegance of the LA Times seamless transition proves. Committed readers will go to the hassle. Most, however, will not.

Media companies, Stop Wasting America’s Time by making readers fight to get information the way they want it, where they want it. Pay a little less attention to pay walls and instead concentrate on adapting your delivery to technology that isn’t even cutting edge anymore.

Know of someone who deserves a SWAT? Click here to make a nomination.

Copyright 2010 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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