Techmeme, the popular tech news aggregator, launched a new mobile site yesterday. The official announcement is here.
Not surprisingly the site was unusable in the Openwave emulator, which I’m using as a stand in for a feature phone (aka dumphone browser) as I no longer have a working one. The site loaded but was unusable. The text was scrunched into a single column five characters wide and the tabs and links to “Discussions” of each news item were not clickable. That’s not really a problem as Mini-Techmeme, the three year old version of Techmeme for old school mobile browsers has not been discontinued and is still available at techmeme.com/mini.
The new iPhone/Android/Web OS/Opera Mini/Symbian Webkit version of Techmeme has virtually everything that’s on Techmeme’s desktop site including the “Discussion” feature which pulls in other stories that link to each item. The discussions are excluded from Mini-Techmeme.
It’s not just Techmeme that got the new design either. Sister sites Memeorandum on politics, WeSmirch for entertainment gossip and Ballbug for baseball also have new smartphone optimized versions at memeorandum.com/m, wesmirch.com/m and ballbug.com/m respectively.
I do have one minor beef with the new design though. Why did Techmeme feel the need to disable the browser “Back” button and replace it with an in-page “Back” link? That’s non-standard, non-intuitive and just plain confusing for users.
I’m sure we will be seeing more and more of these “iPhone/Android/Web OS” optimized sites. That’s a good thing for users of more capable browsers but poses a problem for mobile bloggers and analysts. What to call this gendre of mid-sized (between desktop and traditional mobile web) sites? I’ve heard them called “iPhone”, “Smartphone” and “Touch” sites but none of those really fits as they work on more than the iPhone, including with some non-smartphone browsers like Opera Mini and they don’t depend on a touchscreen either. The best term I’ve heard seems to be “Middle Web” which was coined by Kelly Goto back in 2007. That’s what I’ll be using to describe this class of rich mobile sites, at least until something better comes along. Suggestions anyone?