Mobile News Sites – The Times

by @edent | # # # | 1 comment

I read most of my news through my mobile – if your website isn’t mobile friendly, I won’t be bothered to read it.  I’ve greatly enjoyed the BBC’s Mobile News service and Guardian Mobile – but now there’s a new player – The Times has a mobile site.   This is a quick review of what I like and what I dislike about The Times’ mobile venture.

Discovery

The first I knew of the site was this advert nestled away on their website.

No mention of the URL on the advert

No mention of the URL on the advert

The URL is the rather tautological http://timesmobile.mobi/

Good: Using a .mobi to indicate it is a mobile friendly site
Bad: Not autodetecting my phone and redirecting me to the .mobi site.

Page Layout

A nice clean front page.

The Times - Mobile Front Page

The Times - Mobile Front Page

The logos are, to my mind, too large – they dominate the page whereas they should be subtle enough to be useful.  The adverts predominantly for The Times’ own services.

Big Images

Big Images

Stories are well laid out, although the images could be shrunk for a mobile audience.

Stories are split over several pages – helps with download speeds and also boosts page impressions.

Next and Previous page links

Next and Previous page links

Sharing

Unbelievably, there’s no way to share stories. There’s no send to a friend link and, worst still, the URLs are too long to send in an SMS. I also suspect they contain session keys.

What a long URL

What a long URL

Compare this to The Guardian…

At the bottom of each Guardian story

At the bottom of each Guardian story

Text to a friend

Text to a friend

…or the New York Times…

The New York Times has a range of sharing option

The New York Times has a range of sharing option

Send to a friend

Send to a friend

How do you expect to build readership if your current readers can’t tell their friends about your great content?

Customisation

This is one area where The Times outshines the competition. At the bottom of the front page is the invitation to customise the page.

Customise

Customise

This is a boon for people like me with no interest in sports. Here are my customisations…

All the different sections

All the different sections

…And the resultant section on the front page.

My Front Page

My Front Page

Search

The Times’ search functionality is curious.  The input field is too narrow and the buttons are poorly placed.

Wherefore art thou, Shakespeare (yes, I know wherefore means why)

Wherefore art thou, Shakespeare (yes, I know wherefore means why)

It also provides mobile friendly web searches – although the order seems rather spurious.

Random mobile results

Random mobile results

Feedback

The site asks for feedback – curiously, they don’t link to their mobile Twitter page. Again, their text fields are far too narrow.

Why does The Times hate hyperlinks?

Why does The Times hate hyperlinks?

RSS

They seem to offer mobile friendly RSS feeds, a great way for keeping people up to date with the site.

Mobile friendly RSS

Mobile friendly RSS

Yet, for some reason, the link isn’t clickable.

Conclusion

This has some awesome features – I love the customisable homepage, especially the keyword search.

There are some minor UI niggles which will no doubt be ironed out over time.

The lack of sharing is a severe mistake – without an easy way to send stories to people, you can’t hope to organically drive traffic.

I look forward to more British news sites going mobile.

Post Script

The Times wish it to be known that…

we were mobile-friendly long before Guardian

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