Tools to help you find your way through the urban jungle
Part of the Gothamist network of city blogs, SFist covers local news, food, art, entertainment and events for San Franciscans.
Like the other Gothamist sites, SFist has a magazine style front page that uses responsive design techniques to adapt on the fly to all screen sizes from mobile (left image) to PC (right image). It's one of the few responsive magazine style designs I've seen and it works well and looks good on the desktop and in the Android browser and Opera Mini. However page loading is a bit sluggish with the Android browser thanks to the 4 MB page weight. I'm also not a fan of the 300 x 250 px desktop format banner ad that dominates the page above the fold on mobile devices.
Besides being a review site Yelp is also a bit of a community as well. Yelp members can participate in a chat board and send private messages to each other. Many of the reviews comment on other reviews with the original reviewer commenting back. Each reviewer also gets a profile page where they can post their photo and list their likes, dislikes and a little biographic information. You can also nominate yourself for Elite status which if you're approved gets you invited to Yelp sponsored parties and concerts. Approval seems to be tied to being a prolific reviewer who participates in the social features.
Read more about Yelp, at Wikipedia and the The San Francisco Chronicle.
Yelp Mobile is sponsored by Palm which I think is great. Handset makers need good mobile sites to showcase their products. I hope this becomes a trend with Nokia, Motorola, etc. helping to support the development of useful and compelling mobile services like Yelp.
The Yelp mobile site contains all the Yelp reviews searchable by keyword and neighborhood or by distance from a city, zip-code or street address. Reviews are also browsable by category. It's not possible to log into Yelp from the mobile pages so none of the social features are available. This is probably just as well as the quality of writing in the current crop of reviews is quite high. Mobile posting doesn't lend itself in in-depth or even insightful reviewing. I could see the the messaging and chat being extended to mobile but so far Yelp mobile is strictly a review site. As such, it's a great thing to have handy when you are out and get the urge for some food, drink or entertainment and as a shopping resource.Although Yelp Mobile claims to be "Optimized for Palm Treo" it works well on most any WAP2 phone. The reviews are text only and broken into pages under approximately 10 KB. Photos and maps are on separate pages. The photos are 100x100 PX, 3KB each and are displayed 10 to a page. Maps are 240x320px. That makes both the maps and the photo pages marginal for some non-smartphones. Opera Mini is a good solution if your phone's browser acts up with Yelp's graphical pages. Or you can confine yourself to the reviews which are text and work fine on any device.
In keeping with the touchscreen Palm optimization, there are no accesskeys but that really isn't much of an issue as the site is well sized and organized for mobile use even with a keypad.
IAC/InterActiveCorp's Citysearch is the second biggest (after Yelp.com) US city guide site. The mobile edition of Citysearch includes most of the features of the full site including user reviews, maps and directions, photos and editor picks. Citysearch mobile also has click to call phone numbers and an option to send an SMS containing a business listing to any phone.
Yahoo Local search is a little strange. It's as if it were based on the Business White Pages and returns listings that contain the search string in their name. Thus a search for "restaurants" will only find those establishments with "restaurant(s)" in their names. This means that it's really only practical to search by an establishment's name. Once you have found what you are looking for, Yahoo displays your destination on an appropriately small (128 x 128px) map and provides driving directions to it.
Microsoft's Local Search (beta) which is very similar to the Google and Yahoo Local Search offerings came out in June 2005. Searches by keyword and zip code or address return a list of hits, selecting a hit gives a map and a link to driving directions. The quality of the local search seems good, finding most of the restaurants in my neighborhood, for example. Browser detection is used to vary the map's size from 110 x 110 to 217 x 217 px depending on phone capabilities.
Mogoso is a search site that simultaneously searches Yelp for stores and restaurants and also does an Amazon shopping search. The results link to reviews Amazon or Yelp reviews. I find Mogoso's search interface and results pages cleaner and and easier to navigate than either Amazon's or Yelp's. For one thing, searching for restaurants by zip code actually works on Mogoso by returning results by distance, Yelp first returns results sorted by rating from throughout the metropolitan area, you have to click a link and wait to find the nearest ones.
Go2.com is one of the mobile web's oldest destinations. The URL has hosted a mobile site since 1999. The original Go2 was a WML based local search site that was remarkably powerful for its time. Go2 pioneered features like mobile dirving directions and the "what's nearby" serach. In 2002, Go2 and AT&T collaborated to launch one of the world's first location based mobile web services. It used cell tower locations to find a user's location and show nearby restaurants and stores.
Although it's gone through numerous redesigns and at least one change of ownership, Go2 has never strayed far from its roots and is still one of the best resources for finding local concerts, club dates, movies, TV listings, sporting events, restaurants, bars, weather, traffic and horoscopes.
Today's Go2 emphases events, especially nightlife, with a slick dark themed front page that highlights a couple of local hot tickets. But drill down a bit and you can still find the nearest plumber, locksmith or Irish pub. Listings are sorted by distance from your location and include images, star ratings, user reviews from Citysearch, address, map, driving directions and click to call phone numbers.
Surprisingly, given Go2's pionering use with geo-location, the current Go2 site doesn't use the browser geo-location API and requires users to manually enter their address or zipcode or pick a city from a list.
Jet City Orange (Seattle)
A new mobile edition of Jerry Whiting's venerable Seattle blog "Jet City Orange". Covers Seattle (weather, traffic, tides, which ships are in Elliot Bay), tech, politics, photography, Buddhism and meditation in a unique and eclectic style. And there are a few ambient sound files for you to download too.
Guide to Restaurants, Bars, Nightclubs, Tourist Attractions, Movie Theaters, Concerts and Events for any US city or town. Listings include click to call phone numbers and links to maps and driving directions. Nicely done site but too many links lead to pages with no listings. Source Mobility.mobi
Upper East (NYC)
A very comprehensive guide to New York City's Upper East Side. Find businesses by category, search nearby businesses by selecting a street block as a center-point. Also announcements, discounts at local businesses, events and reviews. I wish the phone numbers in listings were click to call though.
Golden Triangle (DC)
Orange Co. (FL) Health
Guide to dinning, movies and events in Tucson, Arizona.
YouRHere Raleigh NC
Another winner from dotMobi's internal mobile site building competition, Ronan Cremin's tjamm is the ultimate mobile commuting guide - as long as your commute is in Dublin. The site includes a traffic map, live audio and SMS traffic alerts, real time commuter rail arrivals, schedules and route maps for all Dublin bus lines and a weather forecast for the next 32 days. Very cool, Every city should have a tjamm.
Similar to Yelp but for the UK only, Qype UK offers a directory of user generated reviews of local businesses such as restaurants, stores and hotels. Again like Yelp, Qype is a community incorporating elements of social networking like messaging, friends lists and a reputation system.
Dublin Bikes 2 Go!
Dublin Bikes is an automated bicycle sharing sytem in Dublin Ireland. Dublin Bikes 2Go! is a geolocation aware mobile web app that lets users find Dublin Bikes' locations where they can pick up or drop off a bike. It well with Opera Mini,and most modern smartphone browsers. The unofficial site uses info from the official dublinbikes.ie site.
Dublinbikes is a bicycle sharing system where bikes are available at a number of automated bike stations around Dublin, Ireland. The bikes can be used for 30 minutes for free and can be rented for longer trips. They can be returned to any bike station, handy for point to point trips. The bikes and supporting infrastructure are provided at not cost to the city of Dublln by France's JC Decaux, the maker of the famous Paris Sanisette automatic self cleaning toilets. In return for the bikes, Decaux is allowed to install a specified number of outdoor advertising signs and kiosks. It's a nice idea, helping to decrease traffic congestion and carbon emissions as well as encouraging a healthier lifestyle. For users it provides a convenient alternative to driving or public transit and seems generally well received .
One problem with the bike sharing system is that each station has spaces for a fixed number of bikes. When all the spaces are full bikes can not be returned to that station. To help solve that problem, dotMobi's Ronan Cremin developed dublinbikes.mobi, a mashup of Google Maps and data from the official Dublinbikes Website. It displays the availability of bikes and bike parking spaces at all of Dublin's bike stations on a map of the city. Users find a nearby bike to use at the start of a trip and an open bike station to drop it off near their destination.
A full-featured guide to Brisbane, Australia published by the Brisbane City Council and built from the Council's full site using a forms based mobile site builder from MyAnswers. There's a wealth of information on the site including library locations and hours, a library catalog search, events calendar, information on recycling, city dumps, transit, traffic, bike hire locations, boat ramps, swimming pools, skateboard parks and tennis courts. There's even a form to search the city's cemeteries for the location of a grave and a "fixogram" form to report problems with roads, and storm drains, etc. Source: Mobility.mobi
A guide to Canada's Nova Scotia province for visitors and residents. NSMOBILE contains area and town information including emergency phone numbers, business, dinning and lodging directories and links to local news and weather mobile sites.