On Design for the Web: Re-Visiting Onswipe

A while back, I wrote about using Onswipe, a service that automagically enables iPad friendly versions of WordPress websites. In that post I described how I had configured Onswipe to run on all of my sites. A couple days after writing that post, and without much fanfare, I disabled Onswipe.

A couple weeks ago, Carol Hagen mentioned something on Twitter about Onswipe. She enabled the service for her site, Carol’s Construction Technology Blog, which I consider to be an invaluable resource due to her deep insight. Her blog serves as an outlet for promoting her business, Hagen Business Systems, “an industry leader in providing project management, estimating and document imaging software designed specifically for the construction industry.” In other words, Ms. Hagen’s blog isn’t a hobby, but is part of a professional marketing strategy.

To Onswipe Or Not To Onswipe

Using my phone’s camera, I snapped some shots of Carol’s blog to show what the Onswipe display looks like (click on any of the images to view larger):

Carol Hagen's Blog with Onswipe - 1
Carol Hagen's Blog with Onswipe - 1

Here is what you see when viewing an individual post via Onswipe:

Carol Hagen's Blog with Onswipe - 2
Carol Hagen's Blog with Onswipe - 2

There is no denying that viewing the Onswipe-enabled version on the iPad is beautiful (when you’re actually viewing on an iPad, not looking at a mobile phone picture of it). The functionality is awesome, as well – swipe to move between posts, a cool page-turning animation – it is really cool. Even better, you can add the site as an icon to your iPad’s home screen. The result is a cool app icon with Carol’s smiling face, providing a one-touch access to her blog any time.

So, what’s not to like? Here is a screenshot from Ms. Hagen’s non-Onswipe-optimized site:

Carol Hagen's Blog without Onswipe
Carol Hagen's Blog without Onswipe

What’s different? Context. As I have written before, and will likely continue to rant about until I die, context matters. If you look at the regular version of Carol’s Construction Technology Blog, you will see the careful (yet subtle) attention she has given to the design of her site. The header, the top navigation bar, the search box, and the sidebar all add context. When visiting a site for the first time, perhaps from a link shared via social media, I want to know who is offering this insight. What is their perspective, when was this written, why is this relevant, and how will this (article, site, person, company) benefit me?

In the standard version of Carol’s blog, the answers to these questions are immediately visible, by design. In the Onswipe-optimized version of her site, to find out more about the context of an article, I would have to click on the small button in the upper-right corner labeled “Menu,” then click on “Pages” before clicking on “About.”

What’s The Point?

Onswipe is a really neat idea. A lot of websites are so crammed full of stuff, that mobile-optimized and iPad-optimized versions are necessary for usability. However, a properly designed website (designed for maximum usability) such as Carol’s works just fine on the iPad without the Onswipe overlay. Here’s a screenshot (at the bottom of Onswipe-optimized pages is a link to switch to “the desktop version”):

Carol Hagen's Blog without Onswipe 2
Carol Hagen's Blog without Onswipe 2

It looks just fine. And all of the context is there. Notice the little blurb in the about box right above Carol’s picture and contact info:

I have been speaking to and educating the construction industry on the impact computer technology has on accuracy, productivity and workflow since 1986. Moving construction firms and related industries toward the paperless office and identifying and implementing LEAN practices to achieve a competitive advantage is my passion.

Carol Hagen writes about technology for the construction industry, and to be perfectly honest, I value her insight over many of the industry heavyweights like ENR, Constructech, etc. She isn’t writing about this stuff as a staff writer at some big company – she is a business woman writing about her experience. And no matter what format Ms. Hagen publishes her content in, you can bet that I’ll be there reading it. And so should you.

Context matters.

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