One of the presenters at last week’s Mobile 2.0 Event was Mippin. It’s hard to tell much about a service from a five minute presentation and Mippin’s left me pretty unclear on what it actually was. I’ve had time to play with Mippin so here’s my take.
Mippin is a mobile portal built from RSS feeds. In itself that’s not new, Feed2Mobile. Mowser, FeedM8 and Winksite all offer directories of mobile formated feeds. They all have their own mix of features. Mippin emphasizes ease of use and I think is a good choice for users new to the mobile web.
Mippin’s front page lists the top six stories facilitating discovery. Another usability feature is that Mippin stores your browsing history and displays it as MyMippin at the top of the homepage. The MyMippin list persists across sessions and can be edited it to delete unwanted sites. It’s just a browser history list but it does serve as an automatic bookmarking feature for users. Fast page loads are an important part of usability and Mippin loads quickly even on low end phones because page and image sizes are varied to suit the handset.
The primary way to navigate Mippin is a categorized directory of sites . There’s also search box that doubles as a URL entry form. You can enter a familiar web URL like Engadget.com rather than having to key the full feed URL such as engadget.com/rss.xml. Keying a URL lets you add sites that aren’t in Mippin’s directory to your MyMippin but doesn’t seem to add them to the directory.
Mippin also has some mobile social elements. You can send a story to a friend by email or Twitter. There’s a voting feature, thumbs up and thumbs down buttons on each feed’s index page let you cast your vote with the running total displayed. Mippin’s users seem to be hard to please with most sites hovering around a 50% approval rate.
There are a few things in Mippin that I don’t like. The site uses an email address as a login which is a pet peeve of mine. Mippin tries to make it easier by putting an @ sign in the email field so you don’t have to key that ugly character. But even with that concession email addresses tend to be long and hard to type on a phone. You can choose a nickname when registering but you can’t use it as a login, which seems like a usability opportunity lost. I’d also like to see a few accesskeys to take me back to MyMippin, the search box or the voting buttons with a single click.
I’m not wild about how images are displayed in Mippin either. I don’t mean the thumbnails with rounded corners which are cool looking. The problem is that when displaying a feed item Mippin doesn’t show images in their original context in the body of the item. Instead it only displays the first image from the item and it displays it the top of the item before any text. If the item spans multiple pages, the same image is shown at the top of every page.
Mippin is the sort of site I recommend to people who ask me “What can I do on the mobile web”, it offers tons of content with a zero learning curve. Would I use it myself? Probably not, I prefer a true mobile feed reader like Bloglines which hides items I’ve already read and gives me complete control over what feeds I see.