For the last three years I’ve been hosting a page which has links to mobile transcoded versions of Velonews.com‘s live coverage of major cycling events like the Tour de France. While I was following today’s stage transcoded by Skweezer on my phone I saw this :
“By the way, if you’re going to be away from you computer and still want to check in on the live action you can point your mobile device browser to our mobile live window at http://www.velonews.com/live_mobile. Come on. You can be subtle about it and when your boss is yapping about the strategic plan for the coming three months, you can sneak a peek at what you really care about.”
So Velonews finally has their own mobile site. This is great. It means that another sizable web destination has realized the importance of having a presence on the fastest growing part of the web. It also means that more cycling fans will be aware of the possibility of using their phone browser to follow the Tour and other big cycling events (Tour of California, Tour of Georgia, Giro d’Italia,Vuelta a Espana and the World Championships) that Velonews does live reports from. For me it also means I won’t have to get up before dawn to verify the dynamic url or feel guilty when VeloNews changes the url and I oversleep and don’t catch it until the stage is 2/3 over – like happened today.
So I’m really glad VeloNews is doing this but I do have to point out a few gotchas with the new mobile site.
1) It’s a fairly large (22KB) page for mobile. The Motorola Mobile Browser Emulator gave a “Too Large” error and refused to load any of it. Ideally, the report should be broken up into multiple pages each well under 10 KB to ensure that it will work on all WAP2 phones.
2) The landing page at www.velonews.com/live_mobile/ is completely blank and uses a meta refresh tag to redirect to a different dynamic url for each page. This didn’t work with the SonyEricsson and Nokia mobile browser emulators and probably won’t work with at least some phones from those manufacturers. Redirects are tricky on mobile pages, a 302 header tends to work on more devices than a meta refresh, but neither works on all of them. Whichever one is used, there should also be some text and a link in the body of the page like:
You should be redirected to the live cycling page in a few seconds. If not, click here www.velonews.com/live_mobile/
3) The actual live report is enclosed in a table cell that has been styled using css to a fixed 300x300px size with
overflow : auto. This tells the browser to display the report inside a bordered 300×300 box – the auto attribute means that scroll bars should be provided as needed. It looks pretty cool on a desktop browser like IE – the mobile site appears in a little self contained area in the center of the page looking like an embedded mobile browser. Hopefully, most mobile browsers will ignore the styling and resize the table to fit the screen. The generally very good, NetFront Smartphone Browser Emulator gets confused and shows the the styled table cell resized to browser width and 300 px high with no scrollbars and no way to scroll the content which is truncated in the middle of the introductory paragraph (2nd image)
4) There is no WAP1 (wml) support. Although WAP1 is going away, there are still a lot of WAP1 only phones out there today.
I was going to take my CyclingLive site down and just link to VeloNews but in light of the issues I found, I’m keeping it up but with major modifications to the WAP2 version of the page. The primary link now goes directly to VeloNews’ new mobile site. Try it first and if it works on your phone (I found it usable on Openwave V6 and V7 and Opera Mini browsers and it probably works on many others) use it. If the VeloNews link doesn’t work for you, I’ve provided links to the Velonews Mobile page transcoded by your choice of Skweezer, Google or AOL. All three will split large pages and deal with the table styling issue. Google and AOL, but not Skweezer, will also work if your phone doesn’t handle redirects. Hopefully, Velonews will fix the minor problems with their mobile site and I can retire CyclingLive!
The WAP 1 CyclingLive! page is not changing as Velonews doesn’t support WAP1. I’ll still provide links to transcoded WAP1 versions of the VeloNews Live reports at wml.yeswap.com/CyclingLive.php.
Emulator image courtesy Openwave Systems Inc. Openwave and the Openwave logo are registered trademarks and/or trademarks of Openwave Systems Inc. in various jurisdictions. All rights reserved.