|When I originally laid out this website, in the
mid-1990s, nearly everybody who used the web viewed it on a computer
monitor of at least SVGA (800x600 pixel) size, so I tried to make pages
that looked OK and read well on such screens. Although the
original design of HTML was intended to provide simple automatic
formatting of mainly textual web pages (with included illustrations)
the notion was that your browser would adapt the HTML markup to
whatever size screen the user had. As the web found more and more
commercial use, web page designers emerged from the people who had been
using desktop publishing packates, who wanted to lay out carefully and
formatted web pages, and HTML was extended (I thought "tarted up") to
enable more web designer control of the layout of web pages, and pretty
soon many, maybe most, pages were laid out for a fixed page width in
pixels, giving the page's designer more control. As monitors got
bigger with higher resolutions, the extra
page size was wasted on sites formatted by 800x600 or 1024x768 monitors
and with higher resolution print often seemed to get too small.
On sites like wb270.com line widths became too long for the eye to
follow with a full screen browser window, but views easily fixed this
by shrinking their window.
Recently, however, many people have largely given up their desktop and laptop computers with their big, high resolution screens, and are primarily using "smart phones" and iPads to do their e-mail and most of whatever other uses they make of the web. The first three generations of iPhones have a screen resolution of 320x480, while the iPhone 4s has a 640x960 "retina" display, but the screen itself is tiny. My Samsung Galexy S has a physically larger 480x800 display. But all thest phones are much taller than they are wide, while computer monitors are the reverse, wider than they are tall. And, most importantly, with a phone, you are using a touch screen, not a mouse or touchpad to scrool the screen and select links. Even if you can read the timy print on the iPhone screen, it can be very hard to select the desired link on a page that is perfectly usable when accessed on a computer.
This did not immediately become a problem for me, because I used my phone only to make phone calls, and my computer (with a 27" scereen) for nearly all web access. But I was started to get annoyed that women seemed to have stopped checking this site for themselves. I would get a e-mail messages from a woman saying, something like, "One of my clients told me that you had posted my trip to McMurdo Sound and South Georgia Island incorrectly, is that true? Can you fix it?" I would think, "Why the hell can't she check for herself? If she can e-mail me she has Internet access doesn't she?" After a while it dawned on me that the root of the problem was that she had stopped using a computer, and maybe didn't even have one now, but certainly didn't travel with one. She kept her address book, her calender, and did her e-mail on her iPhone, Android phone or Blackberry. So also it probably was with some of the dumnb questions I get from men, that could easily be answered by looking at my site.
Big commercial sites now get around this by either generating different versions of their website for computers and smart phones or by having dedicated apps for smart phones. That isn't practical for me. But I started thinking about how I could make wb270.com more smart-phone usable. The result is the current makeover, which ongoing, and I think will make the site significantly more usable on smart phones (except maybe for Blackberries, which it seems to me are simply lame as web browsers). Basicly I'm reduceing the amount of formatting with frames and columns, so that everything will display as one column, and I'm spacing out links so that it's easer to select them by touch with your finger, while adding a lot more navigation links. I think that the result is a little uglier than the previous version when viewed on a big computer, but still reasonably usable. That's OK, wb270.com was never a thing of beauty. And I believe that it's now considerably more usable for the small touchscreehs of smart phones.
The conversion is ongoing. I am reformatting the profiles, and it will take months, perhaps years, to get all of them reformatted to the new template. Whenever I need to update a profile, I also convert it to the new fomat. If you have suggestions about how to further improve smart phone usability let me know. I have only tested this on my Galexy S; it could be that things work out a bit differently on other phones.
Return to Index