Happy Thanksgiving: Phone-Friendly

Being a workaholic is….well…. a lot of work.  Even today. 

Out of habit I was up at 4 AM, so I finished some website testing on the UrbanSurvival, Peoplenomics, and Nostracodeus websites, and I was pleased to find that all of them are now not only fast (with times off the server in the range of 1.10-1.46 second, about 1/3rd the response time of weather sites, for example) but they also now look dandy (with drop down menus) on most mobile phones.

I did have a number of complaints from people who didn’t appreciate the change and who continue to dislike our new “mobile-friendly” approach.  Sorry, but we need to talk.

Since today is a semi-day-off,  let’s wander away of our usual “hard economics, hard news, and the odd bit of wujo” to give you a look behind the scenes at some of the decision-making processes that led to our latest changes.

As you may be aware,  (so-called/misnamed) “SmartPhones” are now accounting for an ever-increasing portion of internet use. 

Without the change, our site was “offensive” to mobile users.  Androids top the list although some are Samsung’s, some are iPhones, others are Kindles.  Since the pages make sense on my own Kindle and GomerPhone, I can now look at them on the road.

Now, as much as I loved the older (simple) basic HTML code (and clunky browsers) which had been previously used on both UrbanSurvival and Peoplenomics, the times (and technology) have changed.  It forced me to make a difficult choice…namely to give up the old ways and make the public face of both sites much more (phone) user-friendly.

Peoplenomics readers will still be served the conventional .HTML pages, but we will (early in 2014 give the subscribers a choice of whether to use the mobile-friendly content or the “old-school” approach.

As to the difficulty of change? I hope two or three clicks to keep up has not been too much imposition on you. (Seriously?)

All you needed to do blow-out (delete) the old cached  content (meaning old pages stored locally in your computer) and then go on to any of our web sites.  The browser will load the changes correctly and life goes on.  Pages will display nearly the same – but now they can be found on most mobile phones.

A second point which stuck in the craw of a few readers (e.g. didn’t set well) was breaking the daily report into two parts which was done back in July: That when we broke the single long page into a news section and a lighter/more off-the-wall section (called the Coping section) which deals with everything from Wujo stories to personal cooking hints, prepping, and life out here in the “outback” in general.

Two things drove that decision:

First was pure economics:  The UrbanSurvival site costs are paid for by advertisers.  Please support them when you buy things by clicking from this site to their stores.

Advertisers spend money based on page views and click-throughs.   Under the old system (the large, bulky, single large HTML page) I put in a tremendous about of work every day, but the money that resulted (not much) wasn’t keeping up with the higher costs of hosting the site. 

Hosting and operating expenses were going up faster than inflation (look surprised) so there was little choice.  We had to restructure so that our page views were reflecting actual users rather than understating it by about half.  So that was one driver.

Secondly, we had phone and user issues.  The phones part we’ve been rolling into. We have a wide spectrum of readers, some of whom are serious Wall St. Players who make half a million a year – and up.   Way up.  I know we have at least one billionaire reader, too, if that matters to you.

It certainly does to me:  These people like to keep “on point” – and it helps their limited reading if they know that the “hard” news about economics and such is not often in my “Coping” section – so they just blow that off. 

Most of these Type A’s  grok the long wave economics angle and want to keep tabs on it, which is why all things equal on a typical news day, we’ll lead with economic and business stories because that’s our roots and continuing core research.  One reason is there is so much unstated by the mainstream which habitually fails to report the experiential part of living, which is to say, the inflation-adjusted cost basis.

We unabashedly point this out at every opportunity because the purchasing power of the US dollar, compared with what a dollar would buy in 1913 is done to just 4.5-cents, or so.  It’s a another one of those inconvenient truths that people just don’t talk about.  July like home prices seem to be back up to 2004-2005 levels, but that’s only if you ignore the roughly 10% in sales prices baked in the cake.  This means on a walk-in with X dollars and leave with X dollars of constant dollar purchasing power, homes are still back in 2001 or 2001, perhaps earlier.  I digress.

Our website isn’t for “streeties”.  Its for everyone; people who want to embrace some of the lessons to be learned from observing the systematic debasement of America’s currency. 

It’s especially for the sons and daughters of people like me, who are almost to the finish line of a working life: our biggest problem is holding on to at least part of the lifestyle we thought we were buying for 50-years of ass-busting.   That’s getting harder to do all the time, in case you haven’t noticed.  I’m sure you have, though.

It finally all came down to: With more and more, are using “smart phones” we needed to change to remain relevant. Unlike 568 people you-can-guess-where.

Now, as to how well this is going (after the few clicks to get here)?  There are lots of mobile-friendly test sites (like this one over here).  I like MobileTest.me because you can pick a phone and look at a specific page.    If you’d like to tinker around with it, try the UrbanSurvival or Peoplenomics.com sites (in the responsive design) and then compare it with a page in the “old style” like http://urbansurvival.com/links.htm.  You’ll see the difference, I hope.  On old-style pages people were being lost by the scroll bars which are not as nifty as adaptive menus.

imageYou can see on an browser like Firefox, too, if a website is “responsive” – which roughly means “phone-friendly.”

Screen elements move around, column widths adjust automatically, and the graphics resize.  Very nicely.

These snips were done with Firefox (dragging the browser narrower) but it may not look perfect in Internet Explorer because Microsoft is off on a tangent from some of the web standards that are emerging. 

So that’s it.  A leisurely discussion of some of the business processes which are ongoing here and which are part of the changing the information landscape.

And while I regret the inconvenience (I don’t like the new toolsets I’ve had to learn – literally months of study to set up and tweak and get these things working well on phones and such before going live), the other reality is that both UrbanSurvival and its companion subscriber site www.Peoplenomics.com is still one of the few things that has NOT gone up in price in the last five years and I’m doing my darnedest to keep it that way.

The good side of all my “webbiness? here lately?  Came up with a kick-butt idea for Peoplenomics readers which we will unveil Saturday morning as part of our “Shopping for a SuperCountry” series where we look at new approaches so some of the “same-old” problems which are dogging us. 

Oh, and don’t forget:  SST Sandwich Day tomorrow!

Moderation in all things, except happiness, of course…and write if you get full.

George Ure  george@ure.net

PS: Remember my dream last Sunday about “carriers”?  Go check out Grady’s latest data run on how “Another Flat top Has Appeared…”