The Mobile Edition of the Irish Times
The Irish Times launched a scaled down mobile edition of the newspaper today at m.irishtimes.com. Here are my thoughts on it.
From the blog post announcement:
“We’ve decided to launch a device-neutral site which will render well on iPhones, BlackBerries, Nokias and everything else.”
It won’t render well on iPhones. It will render like the 1998 WAP-era site that it is.
They want to support the greatest number of devices to maximise potential readership. Sounds reasonable, but it’s the wrong approach because it assumes that Nokia owners  use the mobile web just because their device is physically capable of it. They’ve thrown away modern tools and techniques to support the lowest common denominator.
But the lowest common denominator can’t even find the browser on their phone or even tell you if it has one. The response to this should be: “Why then, are we making a website for people who don’t even know if their phone has a web browser?” Instead, this is the Irish Times’ solution:
“If you don’t know how to get to your phone’s browser, or you’re having trouble, you can text and you’ll receive a reply with a link. Send a text containing the word NEWS to 51500. Then click on the link in the reply”
It would be better to use modern tools and focus on improving the experience for real readers, instead of hobbling yourself to cater for theoretical ones.
Most of the content from the website is not available through this interface. It’s not possible to list all stories from today’s Irish times, just “breaking news”, some highlights and “most read”.
Mobile sites should simplify the interface not the content.
Interestingly, normal articles work if you take a normal irishtimes.com URL and change the “www.” to “m.”. There’s just no natural way to navigate to them — this issue could easily be resolved.
 I”m saying “Nokia”, but I mean any phone without a modern standards compliant browser.