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Friday, March 01, 2013

Blogger And Mobile Computers

Using the term "mobile computer" is an example of the challenges involved, in using this variety of computer.

Even identifying this device, which is present in so many different manifestations, is confusing.
  • Mobile Computer.
  • Mobile WiFi device.
  • Personal Digital Assistant.
  • Pocket phone.
  • Smart Phone.
  • Tablet.

As the use of mobile computers becomes more common, we're seeing more and more problem reports and questions, from people unable to use Blogger.
  • Some folks would like to maintain and publish their own blog.
  • Others would like to post comments to their friends blogs.
  • And still others don't understand why all of the various gadgets on their blog don't work for their friends, who are also using their own mobile computers.

One of the challenges of mobile computers involves the use of smaller displays, and the need to simplify the content displayed. This requires the use of special browsers and templates, which are designed to accommodate the limitations. The need to support additional browsers and templates creates more work for Blogger Engineering, who now has more different products to support.

Also, many mobile computers are designed to work over proprietary networks, provided by various "phone" companies. Blogger has traditionally supported use of alternate services - email, and SMS - for publishing posts to their blogs.

All of these differences create complexity, and additional possibilities for failure. And we see more problem reports, attributed to use of "mobile" computers.

Full function ("desktop" / "laptop") computers have challenges - but they are still easier to use.

We know about the different major browser brands, and the differences created by the use of each browser, on our desktop and laptop computers.

Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari all have their various peculiarities. These differences are multiplied, when considering the issues involved in developing new features - and in keeping up with new browser versions, and continually updating the various Blogger features and wizards, when required.

Besides the various different browsers, we have to consider the different activities involved in using Blogger. Browsing blog posts, browsing comments, publishing comments, maintaining the blog, and publishing posts, are all different activities - and have their own different needs.

The relative lack of limitations in "desktop" / "laptop" computers still makes each different activity simpler for the blog owner or reader. The process of developing and supporting the different Blogger features is easier for Blogger Engineering. These differences are not so transparent, when using a "mobile" computer.

Mobile computers have known limitations.
  • Reduced display size.
  • Reduced display colour depth.
  • Reduced processor speed.
  • Lack of various system features and utilities.
  • Lack of a physical keyboard.
All of these details require mobile browsers and templates which operate differently, and the various Blogger features and processes must be used differently.

Try performing the various tasks identified above, using your desktop and mobile computer - and observe the differences. You'll quickly realise the differences, when browsing blog posts, browsing comments, publishing comments, publishing posts, and maintaining your own blog.

One of the workarounds, used by Blogger, to deal with the reduced functionality of a mobile browser / computer, is the "mobile" template. The mobile template, which is optional for all modern Blogger blogs, displays only text and pictures - and eliminates the many accessories, gadgets, and shiny formatting which may be seen in any blog with a "normal" template.

The different layouts of the posts and comments, on a mobile template, makes posting comments a different experience - and the lack of the various gadgets will produce different visitor activity.

Alternatively, when one wishes to publish Blogger posts using a "mobile" computer, the "Blogger" mini app - written specifically for the various different "mobile" computer platforms - may be used. The "Blogger" app has its own shortcomings, such as causing posts to mysteriously revert to Draft status, from time to time.

The differences between the various "desktop" browsers are considerably less noticeable than the differences between some "mobile" browsers and computers. Most desktop computers use 3 different operating systems.
  • Apple / Macintosh.
  • Linux / Unix.
  • Microsoft Windows.
Even with the different operating systems, the realities of marketplace competition creates some interoperability between the different desktop operating systems - and the different browsers are similarly common in design.

The better known mobile computers also have 3 major different operating systems.
  • Android.
  • Apple/iOS.
  • Microsoft Windows.
Not all PDAs and smart phones use the standard 3 operating systems, however - some use proprietary browsers and operating systems, unique to the manufacturers. And the proprietary networks, provided by the different phone companies, further reduce the possibility of interoperability.

Lack of interoperability is going to create differences in how well different applications, such as Blogger, operate on the different mobile computers. These differences will be more significant than the differences created by the various "desktop" browsers, and operating systems - and we'll see more complaints from blog owners who can't use Blogger on their tablet, or whose readers can't post comments, using their smart phones.

Increasingly common use of multimedia content (both music and video) on mobile computers - combined with the lack of consistent support for cookies and scripts (and possibly, filtering of cookies and scripts) - will make availability of content differ, from computer to computer. Another problem here is lack of consistent support for the Adobe Flash product - which makes some YouTube content non playable, on some mobile computers.

Also consider the various security issues which may be different with mobile computers. Both the different security threats, and the different protective features, will make secure use of mobile computers a challenge - particularly when carried in public.

Fortunately, as mobile computers benefit from ongoing technological advances, improved design of mobile computers may make some limitations less significant. Improved displays, operating systems, and additional security devices are all coming. Google "Material Design" techniques will merge designs for "desktop", "laptop", and "mobile" variants of various Blogger / Google services.

As people buy and use more mobile computers, the differences between "desktop" and "mobile" computers will narrow. And use of different new desktop and mobile features, like innovative computer desktops, and products like Android Wear and Google Glass, will force desktop, laptop, and mobile computers to converge in functionality.

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Traxy said...

On the plus side, there's the Blogger app for Android devices. It's not perfect by any means, but it allows you to make a post on your phone.

I would love for it to be available for Amazon Kindle (Android-based) but it isn't. No Google-based apps seem to be, at least not in the Amazon app store. :( I can, on the other hand, access the web interface through the tablet's browser, but the mobile app is so much easier to use.