As part of an on-going series, we are planning on reviewing mobile sites to give you our take on which websites we feel are doing mobile right, and which sites have some work to do. In this installment, I did a little research on one of my favorite uses of the mobile internet on my BlackBerry Pearl, checking on the status of my favorite sports teams.
As a starter, using my Pearl to browse the internet is always a bit cumbersome. It has a small screen and does not have a lot of the browsing capabilities of high-end BlackBerry devices like the Curve, Bold or Storm, and is well short of the iPhone. So using the Pearl puts a lot of demand on having a site that is truly optimized for mobile use.
I wanted to try a range of sites, so I checked out four sites that are pretty popular for checking out sports information on the web: espn.com, cbssportsline.com, foxsports.com, and sports.yahoo.com. In order to determine which sites performed best in the mobile environment, I was interested in the following characteristics:
- Mobile detection: How easy could I get to the site. In other words, did the site automatically detect my device and format the site for me, or did I need to enter in a special site name or extension.
- Speed: How quickly did the site’s pages load.
- Usability: How quickly could I get to relevant information, such as sports scores or key headlines. As a mobile user, I am not necessarily interested in browsing a lot of articles, I just need to get a few quick score updates and maybe check out a quick headline or two.
- Multimedia: Does the site make appropriate use of pictures, graphics and multimedia features?
- Aesthetics: The overall look and feel of the site. This is the most subjective of the criteria.
Here is my take on how the sites stacked up, ranked in order from best to worst of the four:
Maybe it’s because they know sports best, but I felt ESPN did the best job. First off, the site auto detects the mobile request and optimizes the view. There is no special url to enter or go to. The site’s pages load quickly, and the most relevant information was easy to get to and intuitive to find. The site uses minimal graphics and no video (at least on the Pearl), which is not a huge drawback since it keeps the load times down. Finally, the look and feel is very well done and fits well with their existing internet presence – you definitely know you are at the espn site.
It was close between Fox Sports and ESPN, but Fox Sports came up just a bit short on the ease of use. Fox also uses auto-detection, but the page loads seemed to be just a bit on the slow side. Plus, finding the relevant information was not quite as intuitive as the ESPN site. One feature I did really like with the Fox Sports site was reading the articles. The articles are split across multiple pages using a “more” feature to go to the rest of the article. It also lets you know how many pages there are in the article so you can quickly decide if you want to continue reading or go somewhere else, which is a great feature for mobile usability.
You can’t go wrong with any of the top three sites, as CBS Sportsline also does a good job with their mobile site. The site uses auto detection similar to the first two and has reasonable page load speeds. A very nice feature are the buttons at the top of the home page that take you right to the scores for the major sports leagues, as well as a drop down menu that lets you get to other sports quickly. For scores only, CBS Sportsline could be the best out there. The mobile site tries to make use of multimedia a bit too much in my opinion. They offer video options, but while I could see the video on the Pearl, I could not hear the audio. Without this issue, the CBS Sportsline site might have been a contender for the top spot.
Unfortunately, this site performed the worst of the four. First off, sports.yahoo.com did not have mobile detection on it, so you could only reach the Yahoo! sports page from Yahoo’s main mobile entry portal. Therefore, it took considerable time to find the sports page, and then multiple clicks to get to various pieces of information such as scores or headlines. On the plus side, the site does load quickly since it makes minimal use of any multimedia capabilities. In order to improve the mobile experience, sports.yahoo.com should use mobile detection, and the pages need to be streamlined so that users can get to information they want faster.
I am very curious as to the experience of other mobile internet users out there. Feel free to leave comments and let me know what mobile sports sites you have used, what your experience has been, and how you think they can be improved? I’d be especially interested in mobile sites I did not mention above. Also, be sure to note what type of mobile device you use as I am very interested in how the viewing experience differs based on device.
In the future, we will be looking at sites for news, weather, and finance. If there are any specific categories you think would be interesting to review, feel free to let us know that as well!