DGST 101: Intro to Digital Studies

DGST 101: Methodology Module (2/4) – The Importance of Digital Journalism

In this next post, I will be discussing both the importance of digital journalism, as well as discussing what makes for a successful mobile website. 

What Makes for Good Digital Journalism? Mobile-Friendly Websites

The first example of this separation that came to mind was the emergence of mobile-friendly websites. A mobile-friendly website is that which can detect content being viewed on a mobile device, and adjust formatting, load time, color schemes, navigation, and more in order to be the most satisfying to read. (Impact) Impact’s article, a piece of digital journalism in and of itself, featured a listicle in which they presented 21 of their favorite mobile websites.

Good Mobile Web Design: Lyft

While Impact’s article did not list any specific criteria of their own that they used to compile this list, and I even had suspicions that companies may have paid to feature their websites on Impact’s list, I went ahead and decided to investigate their examples for myself. Lyft, a ride-sharing taxi service, was listed as the best designed mobile website. Lyft’s mobile website features embedded videos, easy to click links, pleasing color gradients and themes, an easy to navigate menu, and direct links to download their app. Buttons and links are “thumb-sized,” as I’ll call them, meaning that users do not have to pinch and zoom in order to find the link that they are looking for. More importantly, the tools listed on Lyft’s mobile website were of no difference to those listed on their standard desktop website, therefore streamlining a user’s navigation experience and increasing the reliability of the mobile website.

Screenshot of the Lyft mobile website, on my iPhone 7

Alternatively, I was more interested in researching what makes a poor mobile website, and gaining a very rough estimate of what percentage of mobile websites are unusable. A quick Google search of “bad mobile websites” led me to an article by User Zoom that detailed the somewhat pitiful position of mobile websites, even in 2018, the age of “super-fast 4G connectivity, advanced smartphones [and] displays…360-degree panoramas, and experience augmented reality.” Even more interestingly, mobile web traffic permanently overtook desktop traffic in 2015. (User Zoom)

I’d like to point out that this article was about to lead me down an internet rabbit hole in which I read about Geocities, the now-defunct, except in Japan, web hosting service of the 1990s. Geocites was once home to quirky, flash-driven content ranging from Gillian Anderson fan pages, anime women, conspiracy theories, and low budget home pages for local businesses, but that is all a project for another day. Or module. We will see.

Poor Mobile Web Design: People Magazine

But back to the article. User Zoom author Rebecca Sentance continues to bemoan the clunkiness of mobile websites, what with their top bars being filled with pop-ups urging you to just download the app instead, really, you’d much prefer it or the rest of the page being filled with pop-ups urging you to accept their cookies because they really need your personal information to make their website better. And yeah, some content is interspersed between the madness. While the Lyft website did not feature these pitfalls, I can think of plenty of articles – especially news and popular culture websites – that do fall into this trap. As you can imagine, as I tried to go to various mobile websites to find an example of this, it took me a few sites before I found People Magazine’s people.com site, which took a while to load, and was mostly advertisements. Ah, tabloids.

Screenshot of the People Magazine mobile website, (1/2) on my iPhone 7
Screenshot of the People Magazine mobile website, (2/2) on my iPhone 7C

Conclusions: Comparing Lyft to People

So what separates the Lyft website from that of People’s? User Zoom claims that the overuse of pop-ups takes a large toll on mobile websites, but I would argue that pop-ups are only a small fraction of the problem. In a nutshell, Lyft’s mobile website is the entire Lyft experience, outside from actually riding in a Lyft taxi, whereas People’s website is simply a method of moving consumers to a different medium, such as People’s print publications, or their advertiser’s content.

“Traditional” as we’ll call them, print mediums, such as People Magazine, have no ability to turn of a profit from their websites, therefore rendering their mobile websites into nothing more than a means of signing up to receive their print publications, as seen on their home website. Lyft however, falls into a newer, more modern form of services that is reliant on the use of internet-connected mobile devices to turn a profit,

Before I switch to the next portion of this project, I’d like to make a quick shout-out to the website oldweb.today, (which was linked in the aforementioned User Zoom article) which lets you browse various websites at any given point in time, including the 1990s. The pop-ups, slow speeds, and overall clunkiness of websites viewed using oldweb.today is akin to many of the mobile websites here in 2018. I’d like to mention that while playing around with oldweb.today, I tried viewing Vice, a popular, modern provider of digital journalism to see what the site would have looked like on October 17, 1998, the day that I was born. Well, it turns out that oldweb.today gives you the actual website that existed with a given URL on a given date, rather than merely simulating what a website would look like on a given date, and let’s just say that vice.com in 1998 may or may not have contained adult content. So I instead played around with Google circa October 1998 instead, which at the time, was only a month old. (Yes, Google is older than me, but just barely.)

With that said, let us officially move on to the next portion of this project. Thank you for reading!

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