A while back, I shared on this blog some of my thoughts about the m-library. The m-library referring to library websites that are specifically designed for use on mobile devices, that is. Since then, Sacramento Public Library's Web Developer, Michael Strange, and Digital Services Librarian, Megan Wong, have been working together to design a mobile friendly site for our customers. Today, they've launched our first go-round; you can check it out on your mobile device simply by pointing your browser to www.saclibrary.org!
For SPL's initial foray into sites designed specifically for mobile devices, we really wanted to keep things simple. Because the variety of mobile platforms (and the physical size of their browsing windows) provide design challenges, our intention was to provide some basic but useful information for library users on the go. To see what I mean, check out the screen shot:
As you can see, the design is very bare bones; all that we've included on the front page are links to our catalog, our databases, and information linking to locations and hours (with mobile friendly Google maps) for all of our branches. There is also a link that dials the Library's centralized telephone reference service, a link adding that number to your phone's contacts, and a link that sends your reference question to our SMS reference service.
The aesthetic design is intentionally sparse as we desired to avoid as much as possible differences in how the site rendered on different phones. I think at this stage of mobile site evolution (with an exception for iPhone users), the expectation on the part of the user is more that functionality be optimized while visual design may not be of primary concern.
Based on feedback we got from our customers (on our Facebook fan page among other places), the ability to renew and place holds on materials was a service that we needed to include. For that reason, the decision was to link from our mobile to site to III's Encore platform rather than the "classic catalog". While neither search engine is optimal for use on mobile devices, Encore actually works much better in this regard. Either way, until we can launch a mobile app similar to what OCLC or DCPL has, this will have to suffice.
It should prove interesting to see what usage patterns look like after a few months of being live. For example, I wonder how many folks will actually choose to access our databases from their phones. However, the good news is that SPL is again responding actively to user demands and making an attempt to remain as relevant as possible in a changing environment. If we discover down the road that some features would be more popular than others on our home page, we can just tweak the design to be more responsive. My approach is that nothing we do is permanent but just the current iteration of an ever evolving product. If you take a look at our site and have any thoughts or suggestions, we would love to hear them. And thanks again to Michael and Megan for fitting this project in between all the other cool stuff you've got going on!