National Library of Medicine staffer Loren Frant gave a good presentation at the NLM Online Users’ session at the recent MLA annual meeting, on the development of the mobile version of MedlinePlus that launched in January. I was especially interested in Loren’s talking about the decision to make this a mobile-optimized web site instead of an app. This goes along with the trend that I’ve noted — The great disadvantage of making apps for library resources is that separate apps have to be made for each of the many different mobile platforms in existence. Instead of making apps, then, it’s more efficient to make mobile-optimized web sites that will display well on any mobile platform.

When I wrote an article on the newly-launched MLP, I missed the fact that it was an optimized web site instead of an app (being a newbie iTouch user ;-) at the time). After hearing Loren’s talk, I discovered that she wrote a good article on the MLP Mobile launch (that I missed because it came out one day after mine!), in which she discusses its being a mobile web site instead of an app, as at her MLA talk.

With the booming popularity of the iPad that was launched two months ago, of course the same discussion of app vs optimized web site is being repeated, although with the larger screen size there’s much less that needs to be done to optimize web pages than on the iPhone. I’ll be watching to see whether NLM does anything to tweek MLP for the iPad.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Hardin MD Gallery pages’ simple design makes them intrinsically mobile-friendly. They work especially well on an iPhone because they fit well on the screen, as described below. To go to Hardin MD Mobile click logo:

In the rest of this article, I’ll discuss and illustrate why Hardin MD Galleries are especially usable on an iPhone. I’ll also discuss the process of mobilizing Hardin MD, describe which galleries are most usable on a mobile device now, and talk some about future development.

We’ve been pleased to realize that Hardin MD galleries work especially well on an iPhone because most images  have a similar aspect-ratio to the iPhone — 1:1.5 — which is relatively unusual for a computer screen, though very common in photography (4″x6″ snapshots).

We didn’t plan it that way, but it happens that most of the images in Hardin MD are about 720 x 480 pixels (the same 1:1.5 aspect ratio as the iPhone), in landscape orientation. So, as shown in the screenshots at left, Hardin MD images fit nicely on the iPhone screen in landscape view.

Most of the individual disease/condition galleries in HMD are fairly usable on a mobile device as they are, although the navigational thumbnail images for some are rather poor. The weakest aspect of mobile-usability is the broad-grouping super-gallery thumbnail directories — Thumbnails work well for individual galleries of pictures on a particular disease condition, but they don’t work so well for super-galleries, which have several different diseases. So we’ll be making scrolling-list menus, which work well on an iPhone, for the broad topic groups, as we work on improving the mobile navigation of the individual galleries within each group. For now, the first broad-group menu is public-domain, free-to-copy galleries.

Other super-galleries, for which we’ll make mobile menus in the future are:

Besides working to improve the mobile-accessibility of super-galleries, we’ll also be trying out a second type of mobile access for individual galleries, by putting pictures in a WordPress blog — WordPress (with a wide array of smart plugins) does a wonderful job in displaying pictures on blog pages, especially because it’s so smart in handling portrait and landscape orientation. The nice fit of Hardin MD images on an iPhone screen, described above for existing galleries, also works well in a WordPress blog. Our first one is here >> Measles pictures from CDC

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Here’s a quick on-the-fly way to optimize Safari web browser pages that are not created with mobile optimization in mind — A quick “tap-tap” with a finger on a column of text (often the middle of three columns) will zoom the text in that column to fit the iPhone screen. This is especially useful on news and blog sites, as in the first example below. In the library realm, it works nicely on LibGuides pages, in the second example. It works in landscape as well as portrait view, and with pictures, as shown in the third example (Hardin MD) below.

The first example is from the Chicago Sun-Times:

The Dermatology LibGuide page from Hardin Library, University of Iowa:

A page from the Hardin MD Gallery, showing the utility of double-tapping for pictures. Note that the size of the picture decreases to fit on the screen, instead of expanding, as in the text columns in the previous examples.

A good 1-min video demo of double-tapping at Todd Ogasawara’s MobileViews blog is here.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

Last evening, one day after the tragic earthquake in Haiti, I searched on my iPod Touch for mobile-friendly picture galleries of the quake, using Google Web, G-News, G-Images, and G-Blogs. I found a few traditional news sources with picture galleries (e.g. BBC, CNN), but they were not optimized for mobile, and were difficult/impossible on an iTouch (CNN employs Flash, so it’s unusable). Global Toronto, the second example below, is typical of the appearance of the traditional news sites. The Big Picture, in the third example below, does do a good job with mobile-friendly pictures, but like the Hyderabad News that’s in the first example, the Big Picture is a unique hybrid of traditional news and new,shifted media.

I had been noticing recently how good a job WordPress blogs often do with pictures. They’re especially notable because they adjust very smoothly to portrait-landscape change, resizing the picture to use screen space efficiently. So it wasn’t too surprising to find WordPress sites in my Haiti quake search. The top example below is from the Hyderabad (India) News, which seems to be a news-blog hybrid (definitely not a traditional news source, which is what I’m referring to in the title of this article). It displays pictures with smooth elegance, in typical WordPress fashion. Another WordPress source I found is the environmental blog feww.wordpress.com, which has just a few pictures, which do look good on an iTouch.

Hyderabad (India) News

photo32B77

Global Toronto

photo67p77

The Big Picture from Boston.com

photo89p77

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey

If you know of others, please send email or post comment.

Eric Rumsey is at: eric-rumsey AttSign uiowa dott edu and on Twitter @ericrumsey