When I started in the online business in 1994, shovelware was everywhere. Content from print and other sources was put online – shoveled – indiscriminately on to the Web. Little attention was paid to what users actually needed and valued or how best to present the content.
This exists to a large extent on the mobile Web. The Washington Post’s new mobile site is a great example. (Disclosure: I used to work at washingtonpost.com.)
What can you find on mobile.washingtonpost.com? News stories, news stories and more news stories:
- Excerpts from Bob Woodward’s book State of Denial about the many failures of the Bush administration.
- A story on representative Foley who resigned in the wake of questionable emails to a teenage Congressional page.
- An article on extended warranties. Note that the headline isn’t even adjusted to the format. On the menu to get to this story, you would just see “Unwarranted”, which is largely meaningless without the subhead and illustration in the paper.
These are the thumbsuckers that few people get all the way through in the much-easier-to-read print editions. On the mobile Web, these stories are broken into one or two paragraph chunks. The Woodward story takes 20 pages. (This same story was a full page in the print edition.)
Just as I’m unlikely to watch a full movie on my cellphone, I am unlikely to read a full page article on my cellphone.
The content I would actually want from the Post when I’m on my cell phone is either missing or in a difficult-to-access format:
- Tom Sietsema’s restaurant reviews.
- Upcoming local events.
- At-a-glance information on the local sports teams. (Last game results, standings, next game.)
- Road closings.
The site also lacks a search feature, which is especially critical in the mobile world, where navigation is challenging at best.
One nice touch: You can get to the site by entering twp.com, which is a lot easier to type than mobile.washingtonpost.com.
washingtonpost.com is easily one of the best, most innovative newspaper Web sites out there. It’s too bad that the intial mobile offering doesn’t leverage the team’s skills in designing for the medium.