Written on January 23, 2009 by Michael Lascarides
Today we’re rolling out a beta release of NYPL Mobile (http://m.nypl.org/), a miniaturized version of our site for iPhones and other mobile devices. We have noticed a small but growing number of mobile visitors to our web sites, and this new site is an effort to launch a platform on which we can experiment with ways of delivering content to users via the tiny screen.
Obviously, a mobile web site cannot convey the full range of information available on NYPL.org. But as we make progress on the upcoming Big Redesign of NYPL.org, it’s been an interesting exercise to decide what to include in the mobile version, since it forces us to think about what information is most critical. Stats analysis has shown that our current mobile users are most often looking for quick transactional information– hours, locations, directions, and so on, so the top link leads to a list of library locations, with addresses, hours, and maps linked prominently. The calendar of daily events, from long-running exhibitions to toddler story time, is also easily accessible and updated automatically twice a day.
Additionally, stats show that mobile users are looking for books, unsurprisingly. To that end, we have added a page of mobile-formatted search forms for four of our catalogs. Currently, only Catnyp, our research catalog, returns results in a mobile-friendly format; for the others, you will be redirected to the “regular” search results pages. Making the catalog more mobile-friendly will probably happen towards the end of 2009. As for making My Account more accessible (reserves, renewals, etc.), we’ll see how it goes… the degree of difficulty goes way up for those features!
The application itself was built in our spare time, and should be considered a very rough beta. Location hours are not updated dynamically, and holiday closures are not indicated (this will probably be the first improvement we add, given the importance of locations and hours to the mobile users). There’s a Help and Frequently Asked Questions section, but it’s mostly a blank placeholder right now. Look for it to be filled in in a couple of weeks when our new interns arrive.
As far as formatting and testing goes, the site was built and tested on an Apple iPhone, but the underlying HTML was constructed to be very simple, and should degrade nicely on older/smaller mobile browsers. That said, we don’t have any testing budget for this thing. If you have a web-enabled phone or PDA and you run into trouble, or simply have suggestions, please send us feedback (the feedback page is accessible from any browser if you dislike typing on the tiny screen).