There, I said it. For years I’ve been preaching to libraries that they need to make their websites mobile friendly. I recently came to the conclusion, however, that it’s now too late.
At MPOW, we purchased an iPod Touch to play around with. I’m not an Apple fan in the least, but the browser on the Touch and iPhone beats anything else on a mobile device. I’ve can effortlessly navigate and read almost every site I visit. There’s no need to search for a “mobile-optimized” version of a site, turn off styles, or make any other alterations.
I know that not everyone has an iPhone, but we’re starting to see lots of other gadgets and software that strive to achieve the same experience that Apple provides. The next couple of years will yield phones and media devices that put the full web experience in your pocket. And that is why libraries have missed the mobile web. We are moving away from the need for mobile versions of our websites, catalogs, and databases. Most libraries have never catered to mobile users and soon there will be little need to do so. The trend is slow now, but is accelerating.
So should you create a mobile version of your library’s website if you haven’t already done so? I think it largely depends on your type of users. Students are more likely to make use of the web on the go. So school and academic libraries need to pay extra attention to mobile access. My general recommendation, however, would be not to worry about making your entire website available to mobiles users. Unless you have the knowledge and resources to build a site that gracefully adapts on its own for mobiles devices, just create a basic page with important links and information for mobile users and link to that page from your main website. Put the link near the top of you home page so mobile users can find it easily.
It makes me a little sad to say that mobile websites will soon be obsolete. I like the idea of having simplified versions of web pages. There are fringe benefits to a mobile-optimized page as well such as speed and accessibility. However, it’s nice that evolving gadgets are making more library resources available to users on the go.