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

Media that Matters: Story, Money, Impact

Wed, June 1, 2016 5:00 pm - Sun, June 5, 2016 2:00 pm

Media That Matters: Story Money Impact is a practical workshop for media-makers, principled funders, and highly motivated activists who want to ensure their work makes an undeniable difference.  This intimate conference illuminates the spark of engagement at the core of these three pursuits. Structured around case studies from the front lines, Story Money Impact reveals best practices in the areas of documentary, digital content, and independent journalism. 

[email protected] Conference

Thu, June 2, 2016 9:00 am - Sat, June 4, 2016 2:00 pm

[email protected] is a three-day gathering tied to the 50th anniversary of the Freedom of Information Act. The conference will explore FOIA’s origins, importance, and its role in American law, politics and society. [email protected] is co-sponsored by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.

Marketing Analytics & Data Science 2016

Wed, June 8, 2016 8:00 am - Fri, June 10, 2016 3:30 pm

The conference is designed to help you navigate an age where consumers demand more personalized communications, experiences and products, and internal stakeholders require more predictive intelligence to inform decisions, analytics and data science have emerged as silver bullets to uncover the human side of data.

Social Media Weekend 2016

Fri, June 10, 2016 9:00 am - Sat, June 11, 2016 6:00 pm

At the Social Media Weekend catch up on the latest social media trends, tools and people with @Sree Sreenivasan and friends at CUNY J-School. This June's #smwknd will offer two very full days of insights and networking, Q&As with social stars, Sree's State of Social presentation, free consultations with Social Media doctors, and more.

Investigative Reporters & Editors Conference

Thu, June 16, 2016 9:00 am - Sun, June 19, 2016 12:30 pm

The best in the business will gather for the Investigative Reporters & Editors Conference for 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. Speakers will share strategies for locating documents and gaining access to public records, finding the best stories and managing investigations. Join the discussion about how to practice investigative journalism in print, broadcast, Web and alternative newsroom models. 

Submit an event

Tools that help reporters with routine tasks

By Nancy Yoshihara
5/22/2016 | 10:00 pm GMT

Digging up leads, tracking developments and transcribing interviews are all made easier with five tools that Rob Tornoe at Editor...

A Guide to SecureDrop, a tool to protect sources and reporters

By Nancy Yoshihara
5/15/2016 | 10:00 pm GMT

SecureDrop is a free and open source software specifically designed for news organizations to securely communicate with and receive documents...