Monday, February 26, 2007

Designing your RSS for Mobile Devices

I travel a lot. I travel an awful lot. In the UK we have offices in Edinburgh, London and Manchester and I've staff in each one. Around the world we have offices as far a way as New York, Russia and Korea. Needless to say - we've clients in equally as far flung locations!

When I travel I need my BlackBerry. It keeps in touch with email. There's a handy app for Google Maps (though a paper map is always quickly). There's also Google Reader Mobile. Many ARHG readers will know what it's like to aggregate (easily) over a hundred RSS posts a day. If I'm away for several days then there can be a mountain of posts to sort though if I don't check the mobile reader.

First off the mobile reader, which you can check via your normal browser, strips away everything apart from the first five RSS headings. If you want, at a click, you can mark these all as read. When you do the reader fetches the next five. It fetches them quickly. Posts are marked as read as you read them unless you click to leave them unread. You read from one post to another.

A really clever bit is that you can select those RSS posts which only offer a summary, click through to the full post but still stay (somewhat) inside the reader. I can read the likes of ZDNet (who don't give away much of their post in the RSS nodes) without having to persuade the BlackBerry's browser to download the normal HTML page.

I highly recommend Google Reader's mobile version.

Could it be better? Sure. Of course! I subscribe to both The Register and Brand Republic because each site is cracking for news. Each site, however, is a very busy RSS feed and when I'm trying to review my RSS at the end of a long day on the BlackBerry I wish there was a way to mark all the posts from any given publisher as read.

There are some RSS feeds that I can't cope with on the mobile reader though. One of my regular reads is Andy Beard. I read his blog because it mixes marketing with technology in a way that many others do not and Andy's not afraid to say what he thinks. So, I like Andy's blog. I've taken him off my Google Reader though. Why? His posts aren't kind to slow and small screen devices.

Here's what a footer looks like from an Andy Beard post on the web.


Here's what a footer looks like from an RSS point of view.


It's much longer! When you're on the mobile device you really don't want to download a picture nor is a feedflare for facebook or trackbacking. The related links are nice, subtle and useful on the web read but clutter on the mobile device.

I'm just using Andy Beard as an example here. There are many other blogs with a similar approach (Search Engine Land has a largefeedflare ) and until Google Reader offers me a "for mobile / not for mobile" switch I'm left to subscribe to mobile safe (safer) feeds and check the others by hand when I'm at my laptop or PC.

As it happens, I expect we'll see more mobile enhancements to Google Reader and other RSS aggregators.

... roll on WiMax, huh?

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