So, I am a little late to the mobile revolution (and frankly I still think it’s ridiculously over-hyped for education), but I finally got an iPod Touch through work in order to test out the interface of WordPress on a handheld. I’ve actually never owned a cellphone or mobile device of any kind, save the one Anto and I got temporarily when we moved to Virginia five years ago—and that was only until our LAN line was installed. I still don’t see much of a need for a cellphone—I work by a phone and have a cordless in my house, what else does a guy need?—but it has been kinda fun tweaking WordPress sites to work well with mobile devices. And frankly, when I go to sites on the web that aren’t optimized for a mobile when I’m on one, I find them unusable. Am I right that the homepage of the New York Times doesn’t automatically detect you’re on a mobile and re-present itself accordingly? If so, that’s pretty lame. I’m sure they have some app somewhere, but I’ve steered clear of that nonsense, I like my web with URLs.
But, I digress, to the point of this post. We’ve had WPTouch installed on UMW Blogs for well over a year now, and I know in theory it has been working, but I finally got the chance to play with it in earnest over the last day or so. And I have to say that this plugin does a fine job of representing your blog on a mobile device. What I like about it is there isn’t much you need to do for it if you have a straight forward blog site, and right now we have it activated site wide across all blogs. When you got to a blog on an iPhone, Touch, Android, Palm Pre, Blackberry, etc., you should see something like this:
Really not too much for me to do to bavatuesdays for mobile devices, there aren’t really any pages to speak of (save the bavads 🙂 ), it’s pretty much latest posts and a meager search function. I could have included categories and tags, but they’re all pretty much arbitrary and more confusing than helpful, so I hide them from the mobile interface. I figure the mobile interface is for folks who might see a new post or are being referred by Twitter or some other site, I can’t imagine too many folks are going directly to the bava on a handheld, though I may be wrong. So the blog theme for a mobile device is fairly straightforward in this case.
However, I started checking out how a more traditional website/portfolio/resume built in a WordPress site might be experienced on a mobile, and I actually tested out the website of local artist Bruce Day. I helped him get it up and running to feature his artwork, and it’s a relatively simple site based on the portfolio site I created for myself a while back. What was cool about WPTouch was that I could actually tweak this site to have the About page with information about the artist be the default landing page—necessary given the homepage is just a single image with four sidebar links you can’t see in a mobile view. And what’s more, the four pages of the site pull down from the header area, and WPTouch automatically adds an email button that is linked to the admin email for that blog.
All making for a pretty slick interface, and what’s more is that this site is using the NextGen Gallery plugin in order to organize and present his artwork. This is all under the Gallery page, and if you go there you can a pretty clean page featuring various collections.
And when you click on a collection you can see thumbnails of the images, and when you click on an individual thumbnail you get a rather clean, AJAX-inspired pop-up thanks to NextGen gallery that works quite well on the iPod Touch:
Which makes it pretty amazing how well you can navigate and browse art on a WP site through a mobile device with a couple of simple plugins. And, as for WPTouch, I love the fact that you can choose what page you want to be the default for the mobile version (what they call homepage re-direction):
Another key feature is it allows you to disable the RSS Menu item (this is a site that doesn’t really depend on RSS) as well as the Home Menu item which is particularly useful if you redirect the homepage to the about page, as I did here. Additionally, WPTouch let’s you choose which pages you do and do not want to show up on the mobile menu, and you can upload custom images and make them the icons for each page. All these features made tweaking a more traditional website on WordPress for a mobile device both simple and powerful.
Finally, you can exclude categories, tags, login, or a searchbar from the header on the mobile device. All of which often helps make the experience that much cleaner for a WordPress site that isn’t a blog.
Now, I have only tested this site ( http://brucestudio.com ) on an iPod Touch, so if anyone out there with an Android, Palm Pre, Blackberry, etc. can give me an idea how it looks on their device, I’d love to see how it looks. One thing I’m a bit bummed about is that I can’t really change the background beyond the few options they provide. I’m sure I could change this on previous versions, but haven’t found it just yet on the latest one.