When is a username not a username?

This week I bought a new mobile phone and moved networks to Vodafone.  I signed up for access to view bills online but 24 hours later when I tried to log back in I couldn’t for the life of me remember what username I’d chosen.

I tried all my usual combinations of usernames and passwords, searched my email but to no avail.  Then it struck me, the sign up process asked if I wanted to use my email address and I said “of course – I’ll never forget what that is!” yet logging in gives no clue that this is a possibility:

Vodafone Username

So web designers, if you accept email addresses for logging in, please don’t label the input “username”, and while you’re at it, examples of acceptable input is a really nice touch too.

Mobile Apps vs Mobile Web

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Power and I were approached to cover Anthony Doherty’s workshop Mobile Apps vs Mobile Web.  We spent a week working through some ideas then finalised what we were talking about on arrival in Sheffield on Monday afternoon.

After the session, Kirsty Pitkin collared me to record a short piece to camera about what we covered:

[Aside: Bath’s Phil Wilson described this as “best. still. ever.” You can see and hear Phil laughing like a girl in the background of Adrian Tribe’s Take Away video. :-D]

Many thanks to Jeremy Speller from UCL for demonstrating their implementation of campusM and to everyone in the session for taking part in what I hope was an interesting discussion. There was quite a lot of Mobile Apps/Web talk throughout IWMW this year so I was a little worried we’d be repeating what everyone else said but I think it’s important for institutions to have the debate over what approach is best for them, whether that is buying in a native mobile app, deploying a mobile web app framework such as Molly, or building mobile versions of their website.

Finally, to make this post a bit more useful than just things you can find elsewhere, here’s a list of some mobile websites I may have demonstrated:

Additionally, check out the following universities in the iTunes App Store:

  • Stanford (Blackboard)
  • LJMU (campusM)
  • Trent Valley University (iUni)
  • UCL Go! (campusM)
  • UCLan
  • MSU Mobile

Merseyrail mobile website?

Last week I was catching a train and noticed a poster in the station I’d not seen before advertising the new Merseyrail website. Even more interestingly they encouraged travellers to access from their mobile. Only one URL was printed on the poster – www.merseyrail.org was printed on the poster so I tapped it into my iPhone and was a little disappointed by the result.

Merseyrail website on an iPhone

I received the full Merseyrail website rather than the mobile friendly version I’d expected. On the train and there was another poster about the new website, this time heavily promoting the mobile site:

Poster on train for new Merseyrail websiteVisit www.merseyrail.org from your WAP enabled phone

That’s what I’m doing wrong but even on phones which support the so-called “full web”, users will often benefit from a mobile version tailored to the functions they’ll want to access out and about. For users with modern mobile browsers giving the choice between versions is the best thing to do.

We’ve been thinking a lot about the mobile web recently – in fact for the last couple of years but we don’t want to simply create a version of the site with stripped down stylesheets – it’s equally important that we change out Information Architecture to ensure that when people are using a mobile device, whether that’s on the train, walking around campus on sat on the couch, that they receive information that it relevant to their situation.

Jenny Jordan – our customer services manager and part time student here at Edge Hill – is currently undertaking some research into the area of mobile devices and related technologies and I’m planning to use some of her findings to guide what we develop over the coming year. You can help by completing a survey – you’ll also be entered into a prize draw – be quick though as you only have until 10th December.

Blogs on the go

So mobile is the next big thing, right? People have been saying that for the last 10 years! First WAP, then those crazy phones from Japan… Now we’ve got Apple iPhone and Google Android and Palm’s Pre and even Nokia have been able to produce some reasonable devices! With modern phones come modern web browsers and bundled data making it cost effective enough to browse the web for more than 30 seconds.

All these phones are capable of browsing the so-called “full web” but equally, users often expect a version of the site optimised for mobiles. That’s what we’ve been able to do on the Edge Hill blogging platform using a nifty little WordPress plugin called WPtouch.

It intercepts requests from certain mobile devices (currently iPhone, iPod Touch & Android) and a special theme with a few custom features to integrate more closely with phones. If you want to see the original site, there’s a toggle switch at the bottom of the page.

It’s available for all blogs hosted on blogs.edgehill.ac.uk so if you’ve got one of these phones, give it a try and let us know what you think. We’re starting to look into doing more for the mobile web both for the corporate site and for GO so keep an eye out for future developments.

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