Not a member? Sign up

Why SavannahNow's mobile website looks like an app

by: Amy Gahran |

Why are there no headlines on the homepage of the mobile website of the Savannah Morning News? Because smartphone users tend to like to do stuff. Morris Publishing Group redesigned this mobile site to look and work more like an app.

The mobile homepage of SavannahNow.com features a grid of 12 icons, each corresponding to a section of the site. Beneath that are smaller icons linking to each of the news venue's many social media presences.

...And no headlines. Not one. Users can opt to switch to the full version of the site which is a more traditional headline-laden approach, but the default mobile site looks and works more like an app.

Why? In a blog post, Morning News vice president of audience Steve Yelvington explained:

"Something had to go. Even if your phone is one of those dorky-looking five-inch phablets, it doesn't have enough display space to accommodate the mission conflict that reigns on the typical homepage: navigation, content recommendation, and commercial recommendation (advertising). So the content went -- all of it. Now navigation rules. Weather, movie listings, real estate and other features that were drowned in a cascade of news are now easy to find."

The key advantage of this approach is that it's easier for users to quickly navigate to the desired section, without scrolling down a lengthy page. Mobile users strongly desire speed of access and ease of use. So now, a SavannahNow user who wants the local weather (typically one of the highest-trafficked pages in any news site) doesn't have to plow past the sports headlines to get the forecast -- it's the first icon in the grid.

Once users click past the home page to a section, a more traditional news website layout returns.

This is a model that community information, news, and engagement project might wish to consider for their own websites. Engagement is an active process, and mobile users (especially smartphone users) tend to have a very action-focused mindset. While true "native" mobile apps (downloadable platform-specific software) are generally too costly for most community engagement projects, and true mobile "web apps" (app-like interactivity, such as a searchable database, delivered via the mobile web browser) tend to work better for niche topics, adopting an app-like design for your mobile website homepage could be a first step toward engaging your community through ease of use.

One drawback to the new SavannahNow.com home page is that, since this is not actually responsive web design but rather a separate mobile site, the cell-phone-sized app-like home page also appears to tablet users -- which is a little awkward. Yelvington's post discussed why they haven't yet adopted responsive design techniques for the site; but new community engagement projects starting from scratch may not face these hurdles.

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Amy Gahran

Amy Gahran is a journalist, editor, trainer, entrepreneur, strategist, and media consultant based in Boulder, Colorado. In addition to writing
Read More

Events
Submit an event

American Library Association Midwinter Meeting

January 30, 2015 - February 3, 2015

Registration is now open for the ALA meeting, which will be held in Chicago.

Nonprofit Technology Conference

March 4, 2015 - March 6, 2015

The NTC is the nonprofit industry's signature technology event, bringing together more than 2,000 nonprofit staff, vendors, and consultants. 

2015 Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference, March 5-8

March 5, 2015

Join IRE and NICAR in Atlanta for our annual conference devoted to data journalism, March 5-8, 2015 at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis. Come and learn about tools you need to dig deeper into stories and give readers, viewers and your online audience the information they're demanding.

2015 SXSW Interactive, March 13-17

March 13, 2015

Check out some of the most important 2015 SXSW Interactive dates related to entry periods for sessions and events. Also, be sure to sign up for the SXSW monthly newsletter to learn about other SXSW announcements and information.

Sunshine Week: Your Right to Know

March 14, 2015 - March 20, 2015

Launched in 2005, Sunshine Week has grown into an enduring annual initiative to promote open government and push back against excessive official secrecy.  

2015 Philanthropy Southwest Spring Summit

April 18, 2015 - April 21, 2015

Save the Date! Philanthropy Southwest's 2015 Spring Conference will be held at the AT & T Executive Education and Conference Center, The University of Texas in Austin, Texas! Check back here for additional details as they become available.

Summer 2015 Journalism Ethnics Fellowship

May 23, 2015

The May 24-June 7, 2015 program is sponsored by Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics in collaboration with The Museum of Jewish Heritage—A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Applications are being accepting for a fellowship, which uses the conduct of journalists during the Holocaust and in Nazi Germany as a launching point for an intensive two-week summer program on contemporary journalism ethics.

IRE 2015 Annual Conference, June 4-7

June 3, 2015

The Investigative Reporters & Editors annual conference in Philadelphia attracts the best in the business and offers more than 150 panels, hands-on classes and special presentations about covering business, public safety, government, health care, education, the military, the environment and other key beats.

Allied Media 2015 Annual Conference, June 18-21

June 17, 2015

Save the date for the 17th annual Allied Media Conference, June 18-21, 2015 in Detroit.

Philanthropy Southwest 2015 Annual conference

October 21, 2015

Save the Date! Philanthropy Southwest's 67th Annual Conference will be held in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Submit an event

What does your local news brand say? Takeaways from the Knight News Challenge

By Melissa Kaplan
11/19/2014 | 10:55 am GMT

Here are a few key insights on brand buliding explored over the summer at the Knight News Challenge.

Insight into the Texas Tribune's success, from Nieman Lab

By Melissa Kaplan
11/12/2014 | 11:04 am GMT

The Texas Tribune stands out in the nonprofit digital media landscape, continuing to expand with help from multiple funding resources. This organization...