housekeeping: mobile version of Ask a Manager?

I figured I’d crowdsource this one: We need a mobile version of Ask a Manager so people can read it on their phones and tablets more easily. Which means I need an easy WordPress plugin that doesn’t require tons of customization to work. I’d been hoping WPtouch Pro would be the solution, but they don’t support threaded comments (so comments would just appear chronologically, rather than making it clear what was a reply to something else) and they don’t know when they’re going to add it, so that’s a no-go.

So … if you have a WordPress site and a mobile version you’re happy with, what are you using? Or if you’ve seen it done well somewhere else, what are they using?

Right now I’m looking at Obox Mobile, but would love other suggestions…

{ 75 comments… read them below }

  1. Jack the Brit

    I’d be interested to hear just what problems people are having, reading the desktop site on their handheld devices. I visit on my phone all the time, and can read and comment with no hassle :)

    1. Carrie in Scotland

      For me it’s the comments box – it “pings” up and down and makes it difficult to know where you’re commenting.

      1. Audiophile

        ^ this. I ran into that problem the other day, when trying to reply to something. I hit reply, only for the comment back to show up under a comment I didn’t want to reply to.

      2. fposte

        How’s your internet speed? I have slow internet and the site dances back and forth while it’s loading–I’ll think it’s done and scroll down and then it bounces me back up again. If I just wait until everything is actually loaded it’s fine.

    2. Wanda

      I agree with this. I read the blog exclusively on my phone without a problem.

      I also dislike a lot of mobile sites because they do not let me enlarge the print if I need or want to. I hope that is something we you will take into consideration if you move to a mobile site for handheld devices.

      1. Anonymous

        Agreed.

        I hate mobile versions that don’t have a link to the desktop version and then I’m stuck with the size.

      2. ChristineSW

        Amen. Although the iPad has a feature that lets you zoom in on a page (3-finger tap), it doesn’t always cooperate, which makes reading and scrolling very frustrating.

        1. Windchime

          Yes, and I hate it when I go to some sites on my iPad and it forces me to go to the (sometimes dysfunctional) mobile site. My iPad is not a phone. Please don’t make me use the phone-friendly version!

          Normally I read AAM on my laptop, but when I’ve read it on my phone it hasn’t been a problem. I don’t usually comment from my phone, though.

    3. llamathatducks

      I just find it a pain that the site isn’t optimized for the size of a phone: when I open the page the font is tiny, and when I expand it enough to be able to read, the column is too wide for my screen and I have to keep scrolling side to side. So more often than not I just read through my Feedly app, only coming here for comments. I’m really happy to hear that a mobile version is in the works.

      1. Pandora Amora

        Try this combo:

        Feedly app to register your feeds.
        Readability app to convert web pages to easy offline viewing.
        IfThisThenThat to tie the two together:

        – new post hits feedly
        – ifthisthenthat posts it into your readability account
        – instant mobile-optimized offline-capable blog reading

        1. Audiophile

          I’m playing around with ifttt and I can’t get it to send updates to readability. I got the other recipes to work, but for some reason the AAM recipe isn’t working. When I logged into readability, it said I was missing a URL. Tips?

      2. Laura

        I don’t want a mobile app that captures a mobile and won’t let you go to the full site though – because I find the text size on my phone to be completely readable and most mobile sites to be pointlessly huge, requiring excess scrolling.

    4. Jen in RO

      I usually read on my tablet and it looks fine, I just need to zoom in. A mobile theme would be a ‘nice to have’ for me, not a ‘must’.

  2. Anon with a name

    No help here, sorry. But I think you meant “chronologically” instead of “chronically”?

  3. Darcie

    I was toying with the idea of developing a AAM app last summer. Maybe I’ll revisit the idea now with this :)

  4. Sorcha

    I read the site all the time on my iPad, and sometimes on my iPhone, without any trouble. I’d prefer to be able to continue to do so than be required to use a mobile version, in my experience mobile versions are inevitably not as good. Whatever you decide to go with, please make sure it is easy for mobile device users to switch back to the desktop site.

    1. Chris80

      I generally agree with this – I switch back to desktop versions of lots of sites that try to make me use a mobile site that is inferior to the full version. Not all mobile sites are bad, of course, but it does happen.

      1. Windchime

        Yep, I posted something similar above. Some sites can tell when I’m on my iPad and I am forced to use the mobile site which is usually not as user-friendly as the “normal” site. I like to have the choice to not use the mobile site.

  5. Elizabeth

    I also often read on my phone, which is an Android. Commenting is a little annoying there, but mostly because the keyboard is so tiny – which no mobile version would change.

    1. Chinook

      I use my BlackBerry (not the Q10 family) and your Site seems to drain my battery (but I have no issues when I read it through a news reader). A mobile version would definitely be nicer as I wouldn’t get so of the pop up ads.

      1. K.inFL

        Hmm, I wonder if this site is what’s draining my battery although I have BB10.
        I never get pop up ads from this site; on my desktop or my phone.

  6. Anonymous

    this is totally unrelated to the mobile site, but i like the ‘surprise me’ option you have! but, once you get to the random post, there’s no link to get to another one. i’d like to keep reading random posts without having to go back to the main page.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It should constantly be the last item in the top horizontal menu — are you saying that it’s disappearing from that menu after the first time you click there?

              1. gem

                Yeah, I emailed you about this and said it was all sorted on my end, which it was for a bit but now it’s disappearing again!

  7. Lisa

    Have you considered upgrading your WordPress theme to be a responsive one? This will be more complicated than adding a plugin to your existing site but a responsive theme would allow you to have one site to maintain (instead of separate sites for mobile and desktop), which is better for SEO. A responsive site would be optimized for all devices (desktop, tablet, mobile) and the appropriate size would appear based on the device your users are on.

    1. Anonymous

      +1. This’ll also benefit people who might want to have AAM open in a smaller window on the side, for example.

      1. Poe

        I was quite surprised that Alison DIDN’T have a responsive site, as she seems quite on top of things in general.

    2. Michael

      This is the best route IMO and usually the best practice of web developers. A well designed site theme will just work on whatever device, without needing as much ongoing maintainence as an app or plugin would.

    3. Chuchundra

      I agree. The idea of a special “mobile version” of a site has pretty much fallen by the wayside. Generally this is because most mobile versions of sites really stink.

      A good, responsive WP theme should solve most of the issues people are seeing with the site on their phone.

    4. Chris

      My wife is an avid reader of this blog and pointed me to this question since I’m a professional WordPress developer who has written themes, plugins, and knows WordPress pretty much in and out.

      I have to also highly recommend a responsive theme as Lisa suggested. A responsive theme will avoid the need for plugins and extra configuration. They “just work”. There are many readily available themes. One that the company I work for provides a free responsive theme that can be seen here: http://crowdfavorite.com/favepersonal/. I use a modified version on my own personal blog.

      To test how a responsive web site adjusts to the different screen sizes, simply resize your browser window while a page is loaded. You’ll see the theme automatically resize text, hide or reveal UI (user interface) items, and even re-arrange content. It’s pretty wild the first time you see it. And a well-designed theme will look great on desktops, tablets, phones and other devices. Best of all, features such as threaded comments and other layout necessities are consistently available.

      Feel free to email me with any questions you might have.

  8. Prickly Pear

    I have a weird thing on my tablet where posts with lots of comments will display blank spaces, obscuring text. I would switch to the mobile site if there was one.

  9. De

    I think reading on both my phone and my tablet (Nexus 4 and 7) works just fine – I have absolutely no need for a mobile version. If I think the comments are too narrow or anything I just switch to landscape mode.

  10. Sandrine

    I’d rather have the site “fit” my phone automatically. Now, granted, it kinda does, and I have a Galaxy Note 3 so it’s kinda easy, but sometimes when I enlarge the text, it scrolls sideways and it’s kinda annoying because then I don’t read as smoothly as I could :P .

    It feels good to be able to read while at work though. I should not do it, but sometimes the calls are so dull and boring I can’t help it!

      1. Sandrine

        I actually don’t. When I do read AAM, it’s when I’m waiting ages for someone to find information or input info in their phone or take battery out/put back in and restart. It can get boring real quick :p

  11. ChristineSW

    I’ve been fine with reading this site using Safari on my iPad (though I don’t think I’ve tried to comment). However, I need zoom in because of my eyesight, and it isn’t always cooperative. I’m on my home PC most days, so it’s not a huge deal whether there’s a mobile version of AAM, but I’d be curious to see how a mobile app would work. If you find a way to allow users to change font size as needed, that’d be helpful (I don’t know much about apps, so my apologies if that’s not possible).

  12. Steve

    I am a regular reader, often use my phone but will not use a dedicated app. I get notifications as it is from facebook and just link from there, the app would not improve my experience enough compared to having one more program installed. Just my opinion.

  13. Noah

    I have no issues reading or replying on my iPhone or iPad. If you do develop a mobile site, please please please make sure there’s an option to go to the desktop site. Mobile sites can be excruciatingly frustrating on an iPad with their limited functionality.

  14. Ivy

    I use Feedly on my iPhone to read all of my favorite blogs. I only visit the site if I’m interested in the comments, and it’s easy to resize. I’m not sure if I’d use a dedicated app when it already updates for me through Feedly.

  15. AmyNYC

    I’m on a iPhone, the only problem I have is that the right columns of ads and links are a little oversized, but I just zoom in on the post text and comments.

  16. Erica B

    I visit often on my windows phone using the IE browser and have no issues. I zoom in enough for the post or thread to fit the width of my screen and I’m good to go.

    I agree that if you have a mobile version that a link for full site is a must.

  17. Elise

    I wonder if it is only certain devices having problems. I read AAM without problems on both my Nokia Lumia phone which runs Windows 8 and on my Nook tablet which runs Android.

  18. Jessa

    I have no problem reading on my Galaxy Note II, I just tick the box for the non-mobile version. It reads fine.

  19. Zowayix

    I have no trouble reading, commenting, or otherwise using the desktop version on my iPod Touch.
    Seconding whoever mentioned above that mobile versions tend to be worse than desktop versions.

  20. Anonymous

    In general, I dislike “mobile” sites on my phone (Android). I’m so used to the layout of a site on my laptop, I want the exact same experience on my phone — things in the same place. Fortunately, I’m still able to access and then bookmark many “full” sites.

    I usually read AAM on my phone at lunchtime — works very well if I just turn my phone horizontal – no scrolling back and forth.

  21. Jake

    I read a lot from my phone and I never have any issues. I generally don’t comment from my phone though.

  22. TL

    I read a lot from my HP Veer phone, on whatever their browser is (I think it’s HP’s own) and the only problem I have is that if I don’t stop it loading before it reaches 100%, it gets caught in a “reload” cycle and will never load. (This sometimes happens at other sites, so it could be an HP thing, but it always happens here.)

    But I don’t have any problems reading, zooming, or commenting.

  23. Anonymous

    I would definitely recommend a “responsive” design/theme – that’s a layout that rearranges itself to fit nicely to whatever screen size you have.

  24. littlemoose

    I also regularly read the site on my phone, with few issues. I use Feedly to read posts but almost always click through to the site itself to read the comments, which add so much to the posts. Reading the posts and comments is good on the iPhone (using Safari), but commenting can be a little dicey – it scrolls weirdly and doesn’t resize well, and I often lose my place. I usually wait until getting home to my laptop to read the page. Still, no other complaints with reading the site on my phone as it is. Using the iPad is comparable to reading on the laptop for me.

  25. Julie

    I usually read the column on my Android phone, but the size of the font in the comment box is tiny! I usually type very carefully and then zoom up as much as I can in order to proofread. Sometimes when I zoom, the display jumps to a different part of the page, and I have to scroll and scroll to find the comment box and the Submit button. Also, the keyboard doesn’t automatically switch to a capital letter after a period (but it does in other places, like email). Usually, I’m able to make it work fairly well, though, so I can’t say whether a mobile version would be better for me.

  26. MR

    FWIW, I probably visit this site about 95 percent of the time on my laptop and never have any issues.

    For the five percent of the time I use it on my phone, it’s usually because I see Alison tweet out the link to a new story, and I click on the link provided. I use Echofon (for now) on my iPhone 4 and the browser in Echofon is actually very good.

    I never have any issues using AAM on my phone, so admittedly, I’m not much help (other than providing input as to what actually works well).

  27. mlhd

    The thing I dislike about reading on the phone now is that I have to turn my phone landscape-wise which I hate doing.

    Have you considered just using a responsive theme instead? Kind of a happy medium.

  28. Mints

    The commenting is a main reason why I’d prefer a mobile option. When I click in the comment box, it zooms in to slightly wider than the phone, and so I have to zoom out or scroll left right repeatedly.
    And I know I could use landscape mode, but I prefer vertical. Since AAM is asking, I’m answering (:
    The automatic width thing would probably better than dedicated mobile though

  29. MJG

    I’m one of your mobile-only visitors (95% of the time anyway) and I think the site works pretty well . I zoom it in to read the main column, which fits nicely. Some mobile themes don’t allow for user driven zooming – those suck!

    If I have any complaint it’s that the text I enter when making a comment is significantly smaller than the rest of the site’s text, but as this is maybe my third comment in 3+ years of visiting daily, I’m not sure I count as a regular commenter!

    I’m using an iPhone 4S, Safari browser.

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