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Summary:

Looks like I’m eating my words today. Back in July, we kicked around the idea of device-specific, mobile-friendly websites. I said I’m not a fan, although I’ve obviously been using these sites for the past 20 months with my iPhone. I’m starting to have a change […]

ff-iphoneLooks like I’m eating my words today. Back in July, we kicked around the idea of device-specific, mobile-friendly websites. I said I’m not a fan, although I’ve obviously been using these sites for the past 20 months with my iPhone.

I’m starting to have a change of heart, because there’s an excellent use for mobile-friendly websites: On a netbook.

Like many handsets and other smaller devices, netbooks typically face a visual challenge with the web. Most netbooks offer a screen with 1024×600 resolution, which adds a fair amount of extra scrolling to browsing activities. The web is certainly usable at this resolution, but it’s less than optimal. Every browser I can think off offers zooming capabilities and font size settings for those that need them, but I got tired of tweaking. So a few days ago, I started hitting up the mobile-friendly versions of sites I routinely visit. What a joy.

Some of these versions are often far more readable, have less clutter and are simply easier to use in my opinion. Everyone is different, so I recommend trying this for yourself. You don’t need to make any major commitments here: I suggest working for a few hours in a mobile-friendly site on your netbook before changing your bookmarks.

Let me show a few examples of what I’m seeing, so you can decide if this is worth your effort. For starters, here’s FriendFeed, which I typically leave open all day long. The first pic is the standard site while the second is the site formatted for the iPhone. This probably isn’t the best example, but the mobile site has slightly larger text. I see benefit when there are long comment threads because the left sidebar is removed in the mobile version.

friendfeed-full

friendfeed-mobile

Let’s take a look at Twitter, where you can really see a difference: I can read many more tweets using the mobile version on my netbook. I miss out on seeing avatars, but (and I know this will be a huge shock), I don’t go there for the pretty faces. Sorry Michael: You just happened to be in the wrong place at the right time! ;)

twitter-full1

twitter-mobile

With the straight mobile version of Twitter, you lose the ability to reply, but it’s great for content consumption.

Not everyone is into the social scene, so how about a typical Google search for netbooks? Although I see prominent product links and ads on both the normal and the mobile version, I only get two results on the standard site. The mobile site offer three search results and two news bits.

google-full
google-mobile

These are just a few examples and to be honest, not every mobile-version of a site works better on a netbook. For example, I like the full version of Google Reader on my netbook screen over the mobile or iPhone version. The navigation and keyboard shortcuts in the full version get me around my feeds far faster.

I recommend experimenting to see which you prefer. Often, the mobile site URL is a variant of the standard URL: Typically, you’ll see an “m” or “iPhone” before or after the URL. Here are the examples used above:

I’ve come to appreciate the mobile-friendly sites far more than I did before; mainly because I’m using them in a different way on my netbook. Give them a try on your small screen and see what you think. If you want to completely go with mobile sites on your netbook, you might consider changing your browser’s User Agent String so Twitter thinks you’re visiting from an iPhone. Here’s how to do it in Google’s Chrome. There’s also a Firefox extension for Firefox users to accomplish the same thing.

  1. For Twitter, just get the TwitterFox Forefox plugin. Then it doesn’t even matter what other web tab you’re in to see what’s going on. Not quite a streamlined as mobile maybe, but all in one place.

    Also, I actually wish I could get to Meebo’s mobile site. They display all contacts in one group which doesn’t appear to be an option in the full-on web client.

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  2. Kevin,

    You need to try http://skweezer.net
    It is a portal that formats every web site into a mobile version. It even removes most ads.

    Thanks,
    JHall

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  3. Do you recommend all netbookers switch to JKOnTheRun mobile edition? Looks pretty much advertisement-free, so maybe that’s not such a good idea for you guys ;)

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  4. Are you recommending that all netbookers now visit JKOnTheRun’s mobile site? It looks like it’s lacking all the ads of the regular site, so maybe that’s not such a good idea (for your/OM’s pocket books).

    BTW, I tried post this from the mobile site, but got a nice error:

    Error: 502
    The specified server is either incorrect, or currently unable to handle the request due to a temporary overloading or maintenance. Please contact the site administrator.

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  5. Oh, and look, despite the error it did appear after all… (I did refresh the page before posting a second time from the regular site, and it wasn’t there yet).

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  6. JHall, another good suggestion, thanks!

    Oliver, Oliver and Oliver: I recommend that readers hit the site in the way that suits them best. ;)

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  7. Kevin, I will continue to (mostly) read JKOnTheRun via RSS feed and visit the “real” site when I want to see comments or post myself. And I will not buy a small laptop with a low screen resolution. So… HP… where’s that 2140 with the high-res screen?

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  8. Couple of months away, Oliver.

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  9. In addition to Skweezer, there is Google Mobilizer (covered previously on JKOTR):

    http://jkontherun.blogs.com/jkontherun/2006/01/google_mobilize.html

    I have also been trying to add mobile bookmarks to PhoneFavs, a site made by the same guys as PalmInfocenter. It’s like Delicious, but for mobile sites:

    http://www.phonefavs.com/

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  10. Check out trekkertime.com. It’s pretty sweet if you like traveling.

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