02/12/2019

Mobilisation

This is going to be one of those blog posts mostly about blogging, so if that isn't your cup of tea, feel free to skip this one.

A couple of months ago now, I finally got a smartphone. I held out with my old "dumb phone" longer than most, largely because I only really wanted it to do "phone things" such as make calls and write text messages, and an old-style phone is actually better for that as the limited functionality allows it to have a much, much longer battery life.

However, times change and for a number of reasons I finally gave in and got myself a smartphone. In regards to SWTOR this turned out to be a lucky turn of events, as my old physical security key finally gave up the ghost literal days after I got my new phone, which made it easy enough to switch to using the security key app instead.

I have to admit I actually quite like it too. For all my sentimental attachment to the physical key, the app is much more responsive, and I like that it has this little bar that shows you how long the code generated will be valid, and automatically generates a new one when the timer runs out. Something that used to happen to me quite frequently with the old key was that I would generate a code but it wouldn't work because it had already expired by the time I entered it, and I had no way of knowing that in advance.


The new phone has also meant being able to read blogs on the go, which was in many ways an eye-opening experience. Some blogs that I always thought ugly and kind of annoying to navigate on desktop turned out to be the opposite on mobile, the layout having clearly been designed primarily for the latter.

On the other hand I was surprised to find that even in this day and age there are still people on my blog roll who forego having a responsive layout altogether. Though apparently Firefox (and presumably other browsers too) can convert most articles into a format that's readable on mobile anyway if you press the right button.

I also leave comments from my phone now sometimes! It's a bit of an exercise in patience since it takes me ages to type anything on my phone screen, but I spend about eight hours a week commuting on trains, and during that time my entertainment options are limited anyway. Plus every comment I manage to leave on the go is one I don't have to remember to come back to later.

My own blogs surprisingly turned out to look... okay on mobile. This is mostly because many years ago I learned somehow (I can't remember where now, probably in conversation with another blogger) that Blogger had a simple checkbox in its settings that would set your blog to show a plain default mobile layout on small screens, which I ticked as soon as I was told about it because it seemed like very little effort for a lot of accessibility.

One thing I had never thought about before though and which bothered me now that I saw it for myself was how much site content is lost on mobile, mostly because the sidebar is completely invisible. Now, I figure most readers never look at it anyway, never mind clicking on any of the links, but they still matter to me. After some googling I learned that there is apparently a way to show sidebar content on mobile too, though it goes in a long list under each post instead (which makes sense in terms of space).

However, this only works if you select another option in your Blogger settings to customise the mobile layout further, which initially just means that Google will check your desktop layout for style elements like colours and fonts and try to automatically apply them to your mobile layout too. Applying this feature to this blog looked quite good. On my WoW blog it looked terrible, so I reverted to the default there.

However, I found out that simply enabling every sidebar widget for mobile looked terrible as well, as they were just crammed in at the bottom of each post one after the other with zero spacing or any kind of separators. If I was more knowledgeable about things like CSS I might have been able to fix that by adding some padding, but I'm not, so I opted to simply disable most of them again. Some of them also looked terrible in general and were borderline unusable on mobile anyway, such as the blog archive feature - which did break my heart a little as it's easily the widget I use the most, always checking back on older posts that I can cross-reference.

Interestingly I noticed on Bhagpuss' blog, which also seemed to have the default mobile layout enabled with zero customisation, that he had a tappable mobile drop-down at the top of the blog somehow. I eventually figured out that this is created when you use the "pages" feature and put it on the sidebar. (Though you don't get the neat little top bar if you've selected the option to customise your layout, go figure. If you did that it will just go in the long list of widgets at the bottom with everything else.) So I ended up re-creating a couple of widgets as pages that are hidden on desktop and linked them up so that they appear as part of the menu on mobile. Better than nothing.

All this has been a bit of a reminder of how unloved Blogger is by Google and how little support it seems to get. (It's been years since the YouTube widget died and I don't think they ever bothered to replace it.) Though I will say this: Another thing I've started doing is moderating spam comments on the go, and after a couple of weeks of being annoyed about the non-responsiveness of the comment moderation section in the Blogger menu, I suddenly found that it had been updated to be mobile friendly one day, just like that. When I checked back just now to look for the "show default mobile layout" option I was talking about earlier, I noticed that that page had been revamped as well. So there's still some work being done; hopefully Blogger isn't headed for the Google graveyard just yet.

I look forward to them making the actual blogging window mobile friendly as well - not that I can ever see myself writing whole blog posts on the go, considering how long comments take me already! However, besides taking care of spam comments that would also allow me to more easily fix typos in older posts when I come across them. The things I didn't know I wanted...

3 comments :

  1. I rarely look at my mobile version but I don't completely ignore it either. I used to look at it at work quite often although since our wifi went screwy I stopped doing that. I think it looks... okay. No more than that. At least the text/picture balance works, which is the most important thing.

    I did spend some time unsuccessfully trying to figure out how to display the blog roll. I would lay odds that's the most popular thing about my whole blog so it would be nice if phone users could see it. I can't see the point of having it at the and of the post, though.

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    Replies
    1. I may be an atypical user, but to be honest I find myself not caring that much about layouts on mobile - in such a small space I just want everything to be readable/clickable as appropriate and that's enough to make me happy as a user.

      If you haven't done so yet, you should try seeing if the customisation option can recreate the white text on blue background for mobile though! I imagine that would look neat if it works.

      And yeah, blog rolls are seriously one of the most valuable things about Blogger blogs. I like to use yours as a secondary source when mine isn't seeing much action! And even on my mobile I like to keep one browser window open on my own blog roll in desktop view, just so I can see it update.

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  2. It's been years since the YouTube widget died and I don't think they ever bothered to replace it.

    No, they haven't. I've been looking into trying to make one, but I simply don't have the time.

    ReplyDelete

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