In addition to using your phone to keep up with sports scores, keeping abreast of breaking news stories is also a great way to kill time on the mobile internet while waiting in line at the supermarket, waiting for your delayed flight, or waiting for that 3-hour keynote speaker to wrap-up. So for this mobile site review, I took a look at a few of the more popular sites on my BlackBerry Pearl to see what sites provide the best user experience.
News sites provide a particular challenge for mobile as the content is constantly changing. Therefore, the mobile sites have to be refreshed regularly with the latest news and breaking stories. Having a site that updates occassionally, like once or twice a day, is not good enough. For this reason, many smaller, local news outlets are challenged to keep up a mobile site that provides a great user experience.
Since there are a lot of news sites out there, I decided to focus on the sites that provide more national/international coverage rather than the news sites that focus on local content, or provide a blend of content. The larger sites have the resources to provide a user experience tailored to the mobile environment.
I looked at six sites: CNN, Yahoo!, USA Today, Google, ABC News, BBC News. I rated each site based on its ability to optimize the view for the mobile environment, the speed at which the pages load, the usability of the site, the sites use of multimedia, the look and feel, and the content provided. Here is how I rated the sites:
1. CNN (www.cnn.com)
CNN does a very good job translating their web presence to the mobile environment. The site is easy to navigate with top stories and breaking news right at the top of the page. They also provide a nice blend of multimedia, incorporating both pictures and touches of video. Since the video is resource intensive, you have to click through to get it, but I appreciate the trade-off to keep from wasting system resources for videos that I am not interested in.
2. BBC News (news.bbc.co.uk)
This was a close call between BBC News and CNN. I liked CNN just a bit better due to the way they organized the content, both breaking news and sub-categories of news. Where BBC News excels is in the presentation of the content. It shows that BBC News has a more demanding mobile consumer in Europe who uses their phone for mobile access more frequently than US consumers. I would expect more US news sites to adopt a similar presentation style to BBC News as they evolve.
3. USA Today (www.usatoday.com)
USA Today has a good site, and one that I would not hesitate to use for news updates. Its site is mobile optimized, uses graphics effectively, and has good site organization. My primary disappointment with the site was the use of banner ads at the top of the page that utilized about a 1/3 of the precious screen resources on my old school Pearl.
4. ABC News (abcnews.com)
ABC news has a reasonable site that is mobile optimized, but its organization and usability did not match the first three. As with the USA Today site, it makes use of banner ads that eat precious screen real estate. Furthermore, the articles are fed in extremely small bite size pieces so you are contantly having to go to the next page to keep reading with no clue as to how many pages there are, and you are not given an option to see the entire article at one time. For these reasons, I cannot recommend using the site to get your news updates.
5. Google (news.google.com)
Google news is like typing “News” into the search box of Google. None of the content is orginal – it is just links to the most popular news articles at the major news outlets. Furthermore, a large excerpt for each article is presented on the front page which causes you to do a lot of scrolling. Instead of using Google, I would recommend just going to one of the major news sites listed above and cutting out the middle man.
6. Yahoo! (news.yahoo.com)
Unfortunately, Yahoo! just doesn’t seem to get the mobile game in the news category either. When I go to news.yahoo.com, it is not mobile optimized, so it is unusable on my Pearl. To get to the Yahoo! news site, I have to go to the Yahoo! home page, and then navigate to news. From there, I need to navigate to the category I want, and then click through to the scores. For my needs in the mobile environment, this does not satisfy my need to get a quick fix. Way too many clicks and way too much waiting.
I’m very curious as to your experience browsing new sites on the internet. Are there any local news sites you use that “get mobile” and provide a great user experience? If so, why? Feel free to leave a comment, and let me know if there are any sites out there that I may have missed that are doing a better job than those listed above, or ones that are a poster child for a mobile upgrade!