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I’ve felt for a while that I should make this blog better suited to mobile interfaces and, in particular, touchscreen devices. This is known as responsive web design and I’ve been particularly impressed with Microsoft’s ‘Metro’ design language leading to a tiled approach on Windows smartphones. To my eyes it seems streets ahead of Apple’s skeuomorphism.
Yesterday, when I was browsing architecture blogs and came across the Contemporist site, it reminded me of that clean, touchscreen-friendly approach:
I did something I always do when I see blog themes I like: right-clicked to ‘View Source’ as you can tell which blog theme is being used. Judging by the CSS it’s a custom job, meaning I couldn’t simply download the same theme.
That was a shame, but it spurred me on to look for Metro-inspired blog themes. I was looking for something with a tiled, fairly squarish look but that didn’t scream Microsoft. Beautiful though it is, the Subway WordPress theme (from €39) was out of the question. I’d have looked like a Microsoft fanboi:
I also found the MetroStyle theme ($45), which I rejected for having too many boxes at the top:
I downloaded and installed the WP Metro theme (£FREE), but I had trouble making it look decent with my content:
In the end, after considering signing up to a course to get the Anaximander theme, I decided to pay $35 for a WordPress theme entitled Metro:
Like many premium themes it comes with an extremely easy-to-use configuration dashboard in addition to the usual WordPress options. Nevertheless, old habits die hard and I delved into the CSS to tinker about a bit!
I hope you like what you see, and if you want to see the ‘responsiveness’ in action, either resize your browser window or visit this site on a mobile device. It’s only my first attempt – I’ll be tinkering around making improvements here and there over the next few weeks.
I mentioned that for some educational institutions that would be a really good fit, especially given that you can side-load Android apps. Eventually, I should imagine, you’ll be able to dispose of the BlackBerry OS altogether and juse go with Android for the entire system.
Bill Lord, a Primary school headteacher, replied that he was looking at a ‘mixed economy’ of devices for his educational institution, adding that he had three main reasons for this approach:
Staff needs (confidence/competence)
Vagaries of the market
I’m with Bill. To my mind, being an ‘iPad-only’ school makes no sense. It’s replicating the Microsoft vendor lock-in all over again. Since when was school about teaching young people how to use particular types of devices?
Instead, it’s better to look at the affordances of each device. That doesn’t mean how much it costs, but rather what it allows you to do. The BlackBerry Playbook at £129, for example, has front and rear-facing cameras and a high-definition screen. Sounds like an opportunity.
It’s OK to build learning activities around specific devices some of the time, but I wouldn’t want to be doing it all of the time. Why not focus on building and using things that are device-agnostic? Surely that’s a more sustainable option? Use the Web, for goodness’ sake!
Finally, if you’re reading this in the UK you should really stop by HotUKDeals every now and again. I’m on there at least three times a day – and not just to find cheaper stuff than usual. I also find it really enlightening in terms of what people are interested in but, more importantly, the comments people leave and the context they give. There’s some serious expertise there.
Today I’m presenting on the benefits of Google Apps as a collaborative platform for people who work together often, but aren’t physically co-located. It’s not easy to separate fact from myth when comparing Microsoft’s hosted services (e.g. Live@Edu, Office Live) with Google Apps.
Microsoft have, very helpfully, concocted a Fact Based Comparison of Hosted Services (16 May 2010). Unfortunately, it’s rather selective with those facts. Most of them revolve around ‘can you do the same stuff with Google Apps as you can with Microsoft Outlook?’ That’s a flawed question for two reasons:
You don’t necessarily want to do the same things with Google Apps.
You can use Outlook to connect to Google Apps anyway.
To me, after reading several articles (available at my Delicious account) the choice seems to be between:
Cloud storage (Microsoft Live@Edu/Office Live)
Cloud collaboration (Google Apps)
Whilst Microsoft’s offerings allow near real-time collaboration with Excel and OneNote, pages are locked for editing if someone else is using a Word document or PowerPoint presentation. By way of comparison, you can collaborate and edit all of Google Docs’ offerings in real-time.
In terms of real-time collaboration, Google wins hands-down, because Office offers none.
Google’s Docs offerings have been on the market a good four years now, so they’ve had more time to learn what users want and need in an online suite. It shows in the design and function of Docs for day-to-day users.
I toyed with the idea of producing a point-by-point checklist here to compare Microsoft and Google’s offerings, but I don’t really think there’s any need. It’s a question of attitude and focus. For example, Microsoft drags its heels insisting on Silverlight installation whilst Google looks to the future with HTML5, an emerging web standard.
So, if you always use the same device, deal in only Microsoft-produced documents and are convinced Outlook is God’s gift to email users, then you’ll love Live@Edu and Office Live.
But if, on the other hand, you like to be able to get various kinds of documents in and out of your systems easily, if you need to collaborate (in real-time) with colleagues not physically co-located, and if you want to be able to access everything on whatever device and browser you prefer using, then you’ll love Google Apps.
You can probably tell by the tone of this article which one I prefer. And I make no apology for that. Rome was not built on ‘functional specifications’ but on passion, enthusiasm and dedication. :-p