I did a bunch more site maintenance over the weekend, particularly on mobile. This involved combining the candy button row with the menu row and making both look better (imo), and adding some silly animation on the social buttons because I could, and stuff like that.

Let me know if things are broken; there was a lot of under-the-hood work here, and if I bodged something together wrong, well, I’ll fix it if I can. But see the known issues below.

Regardless, have some before and after pictures, and a couple of animated gifs if you want to see a direct comparison: front page view, blog post view.

But the mobile experience in particular is what’s really different. It’s changed so much that I’ve turned it back on for most mobile browsers, having previously disabled it for everything except the most primitive mobile web viewers.

Carrington Mobile PreviewBasically, before, it just had all sorts of problems. Leaving aside the colours being all wrong, there was pretty much no way out of this view or to the rest of the site. It just wasn’t built for use in a mixed-software environment, and the navigation system was fiercely primitive.

Plus, it didn’t do any correct things with images, so any but the smallest pictures were truncated, and so on. You pretty much had the latest posts and… that’s it.

There was, in theory, a way to exit to desktop view, but it didn’t work and I didn’t know why. The best I could do was wodge in a link back to the main site, as best I could, but it was pretty well hidden.

Now, post-update, if mobile users come to the site’s front page, they still get the desktop view. That’s because reasons; it’ll stay that way until the next big site rebuild. But once mobile users hit the blog, they’ll enter the mobile mini-site. And here’s what they see.

The secret is, almost all of my mobile hits go straight to the blog, so for them, it is the front page. So triggering better mobile behaviour based on that seems okay.

The first thing you might’ve noticed is hey look, it’s a bloody navigation bar. Holy hell, who could’ve thought that up? Fun, right? It’s sticky, too, so it shows up on all the mobile pages. But even better – all those top links to go mobile views of pages, including the front page.

It sounds trivial, but this was actually more work than it should’ve been, since this mobile theme had no provisions for this at all. So I wrote it in.

Now, there’s cheating going on here. The mobile front page is a completely separate page. That means I have to maintain two front pages, which blows. Same for the shows page. But since the mobile version of the front page will be pretty static, I’m … acceptably okay with that. Stuff changes on the desktop version all the time, but those changes are automated – newest blog post preview and Twitter feed excerpt, right? If you’re seeing this page, you’ve already been to the blog, so the latest-post excerpt is uninteresting, and there’s a social media bar with links if you’re into Twitter. It’ll do.

And hey, check it, blogpost images shrink to fit now. Welcome to 2008! Or, arguably, 1997. Whatever.

Down at the bottom of the mobile pages you’ll find navigation links back to the desktop version of the site. The blog and music players will stay mobile versions, but the rest – this is how to get to the desktop view where possible.

There are more places to go in this bottom menu; since it’s the desktop menu, I can put on all the primary pages and you’ll get a… somewhat consistent experience? As less inconsistent as I can manage? Something like that.

I’m sure this is a bit confusing, but it’s my best compromise and I’m hoping it works out.

Here’s the blog page top all knitted together, and the same for the front page. And desktop view, blog page, before and after, since I’ve already uploaded them.

Anyway, that’s what I did this weekend. There are problems. The biggest is that I can’t tell the difference between Android tablets and Android phones, so right now, Android tablets are getting phone view, when I’d rather be serving them desktop. A lot of people are surprisingly okay with that, apparently? Anna tells me the devs at Big Fish Games have to do it on a per-device basis, and I don’t have that kind of granularity.

The second is that it should be possible to disable mobile view entirely on any device. I mentioned above that it never seemed to work. Now I at least know why it doesn’t work (cache conflicts), and also know that I can’t fix it. (And that there have been unanswered support requests for this sitting out there for months. I guess they can’t fix it either.) Sorry, best I can do. Stick to the desktop navigation menu and you’ll mostly get desktop.

Other than that, let me know if you see problems, and let me know what does and doesn’t work for you. From what I’m hearing, almost everyone prefers a phone-specific view on phones. I hope that’s true.