What were your main aims in commissioning the new site?
User experience was our main priority. We wanted to provide the best user experience on every device, with quite a broad definition of what we mean by mobile – it might be everything connected while on the move.
People don’t think of a mobile website as a second thing, separate to a main site. So we wanted to put as much of the Guardian onto the mobile site as possible and to offer full stories rather than single-screen summaries. We were very much aware that if the mobile site didn’t replicate the content of the site users are used to seeing on their browser, then that would lead to disappointment. At the moment, 90 per cent of the content from the main site also exists on mobile. The content is generated from RSS feeds from the main site and updated every 15 minutes. The site degrades quite well on less-capable devices and also where connection speeds are lower.
What were the business objectives behind creating the new site?
The Guardian’s existing mobile site was created years ago for the AvantGo platform and so was very much out-of-date. Beyond this, we have three objectives. We wanted to increase the Guardian’s reach – its strategy is to become the leading liberal voice in world. In the developing world, mobile devices are considerably more likely to be used than computer terminals. We also want to maintain and extend our lead in traffic. And, finally, of course we want to find ways to increase revenues. Google Adwords and display advertising from 4th Screen Advertising will both be used.
Who were your partners in creating the site?
Our two main partners are Bluestar Mobile, who looked after marketing and design, and Mobile IQ, who supplied the platform we’re using. Internally, most of the work was around making sure that the hundreds of RSS feeds that make up the content on the site worked (every section and subsection of the paper has its own feed).
How long did it take?
I’ve been working on the project since July. However, the actual building of the site has been accomplished in a remarkably short time – 13 weeks. That’s quite an achievement considering it has over sixty sections and subsections.
What additions are planned for phase two of the site?
We want to allow for a seamless transition between the mobile and the desktop sites, so a single sign-on, allowing users to – for example – start reading an article at their desk and the automatically be able to carry on reading where they left off on the train home. We’re also keen to allow for more personalisation, so that your home page might start with Digital Media and not have any football, for example.
What advice do you have for other businesses seeking to establish a mobile site?
Communication within the business about the strategy, content and appearance of the site will take a lot longer than you might expect. Because everyone has a mobile phone, it can seem as though ‘everyone’s an expert’ in what mobile sites should look like and what they should do. Depending on the angle from which you come to the project, you might have a good understanding of the best way to implement the user experience, the editorial content, the design or the commercial aspects. It’s not so likely that you will have experience of all four. Therefore, those early conversations with all stakeholders are crucial.