Geek On The Hill

The Mobile Web is a Pain in My posterior

I’ve spent most of the past three weeks or so rebuilding one of my Web sites to make it mobile-friendly. Normally it wouldn’t take me so long to make a site that I built myself mobile-friendly because the way I organize the files in a site lends itself to quick site-wide updates. But the site I was working on has a video feed which would have to be rebuilt to accommodate those devices that don’t support Flash, which would be pretty much anything that Apple makes and most mobile devices in general.

Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not big on Flash. It’s old technology with a long and abysmal history of bugs and security problems. But it’s still widely-enough used that my inclination is to say to users of devices that won’t support it to go buy devices that do.

It’s not my fault as a developer that you chose to buy a device that can’t render a technology that still powers a considerable portion of the Interwebs. It’s like buying a two-quart pot and then complaining that you can’t boil four quarts of water in it. You knew what you were buying, so why blame someone else for your decision? Do you also go to steak houses and complain that they don’t have a Vegan menu?

It’s also possible to install Flash-compatible browsers on almost any phone or device. It may cost you (literally) a few dollars, but so what? If you’re willing to spend $700.00 on a phone because it has the logo you like on it, then you can afford to spend three bucks on a browser app to make your expensive phone actually work right. So please don’t complain to me that I shouldn’t use Flash because your phone doesn’t support it. You knew what you were buying when you bought it.

As an aside, I also think that people who use phones and tablets preferentially to actual computers are mentally ill. Why squint at a tiny screen and tap tiny, imaginary buttons that are too small for any finger other than a newborn’s when a real computer with a big screen, a lovely keyboard, and a mouse are available? It makes no sense. To me, the mobile Web is something you use when you don’t have a computer handy and you need to look something up on Duck Duck Go, not something you use when you have a computer sitting right there in the room.

And mind you, I have a good phone with a big screen. I use an unlocked Moto X Pure Edition, which I think is probably the best phone I’ve ever owned. It does everything well and has one of the biggest screens I’ve ever seen on a phone. I even use it in preference to a dedicated GPS navigation unit when driving. The TomTom Go Mobile App is amazing.

And yet I usually use less than 500 MB of my 4 GB data plan in a month. Why? Because if there’s a computer within reach, then that’s what I use. My Moto X’s 5.7″ 1440p Quad HD screen is pretty big and has a great picture, but the 23″ monitor on my desktop computer is even bigger.

Speaking of size, I’m also getting tired of people who email me with complaints to the effect of, “My phone has a very small screen, and I hate having to scroll down forever to read the pages on your site.” Well, here’s my solution: Buy a phone with a bigger screen, you moron. Do you really expect me to write shorter pages because you chose to buy a phone with a postage stamp-sized screen? Seriously?

But alas, a week ago I reluctantly decided to rebuild the site, despite my annoyance at the users who have been demanding that I do so for the past two or three years. Why? Because of money. The site’s a good revenue producer, and I figured I could make some more money by making it more mobile-friendly. It came down to a question of principals versus revenue, and I chose revenue.

It took me about eight hours to make the site design fully-responsive. It took me the rest of the week to get the video stream working acceptably on the roughly 1.2 bazillion different browser versions out there without using Flash, and to do so without taking the existing video feed down. I was running multiple streams pretty much constantly. If I didn’t bust my bandwidth cap this month, then I never will.

But now its done. I’m hoping it will generate enough additional revenue to make it worth the time and effort.