Nieman Foundation at Harvard
America’s Test Kitchen, “the Consumer Reports of cooking,” wants to grow to new platforms
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
July 10, 2012, 12:29 p.m.
Mobile & Apps

Moving mobile: ReadWriteWeb chooses responsive design over a native iPhone app

Like other publishers, the tech blog is shifting its mobile development emphasis from apps to the browser.

When ReadWriteWeb pulled its iPhone app off the market a few weeks ago, they didn’t make a big deal about it. In fact, they cut to the chase with a tweet. The app is out — responsive design is in.

RWW is working on a site revamp that’ll employ the same fluid, shape-shifting qualities we’ve seen on The responsive approach, which allows pages to snap to the proper screen size and orientation regardless of device, has caught on with media companies because it allows them to serve the desktop and mobile audiences with the same code base and eliminates the need to build custom apps for every new significant phone or tablet platform. Apps still have their place, but mobile web is gaining as the default option for developers.

“We have a simple rule: if we can do it in a browser, we use a browser,” Alex Schleifer, general manager of the media lab at SAY Media (which owns ReadWriteWeb) told me. “If we can’t, well, then we consider building an app. We’re look at cases where we need access to the camera or location services and for that we’re building native apps.”

As indicators continue to show we’re going more mobile, publishers are adjusting their strategy to find the best way to serve that audience. And, as it turns out, they’re learning more about their audience’s reading preferences. For ReadWriteWeb, more readers tend to look at the site’s content through the iPhone’s Safari browser than from its iPhone app. And tablets, led overwhelmingly by the iPad, are the fastest growing segment of RWW’s audience.

Schleifer is overseeing the site’s redesign. Over email he told me they’re not abandoning apps, just focusing on a delivery method that’s available on every platform:

People’s behaviours are definitely changing. We just feel it’s best to invest in the mobile browser first, and the app stores later. It’s all-inclusive, and mostly system agnostic. It also feels a little strange that we should go back to a model where everything needs to be installed. The browser is a pretty perfect content delivery platform. Apps have a place, and they’ve completely changed the software landscape, we just don’t believe everything should be an app.

It’s also a weapon against fragmentation: both by new platforms and the increasing variety (in screen sizes, in resolution, in shape) within platforms. “It’s a single template that behaves accordingly on different devices so while you’re tweaking for specific ones you can be more or less sure that it will adapt to any of the hundreds of models coming out,” he emailed. “Samsung’s Note or even the Kindle Fire. We didn’t build for those devices but our templates work because they’re built to be responsive.” Schleifer said RWW is building for responsive images (for those lovely new Retina-class displays) and for orientation awareness. They’re also experimenting, he said, with “complex gestures and even measuring the tilt in some cases.”

One thing that we knew going in was that responsive would be really, really hard. We’ve done some extensive work using some of the technologies going into RWW for sites like Remodelista and you really need to have your framework built properly from the ground up to take full advantage of responsive. An entire framework is being built in parallel with the next RWW. Once some of the key issues were resolved and we could start really thinking about all the things we could do we knew all the effort had been worth it.

There are still issues — they’re debating how to deal with offline reading — but RWW is confident this approach is where to be investing. “I think that, when you’re looking at content consumption, mobile browsers are more than capable to provide an excellent experience,” Schleifer wrote.

POSTED     July 10, 2012, 12:29 p.m.
SEE MORE ON Mobile & Apps
Show comments  
Show tags
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
America’s Test Kitchen, “the Consumer Reports of cooking,” wants to grow to new platforms
“We’d like to move to other platforms, particularly as we see the changes in how people consume television.”
A program from Poynter and ONA is helping foster a community of female leaders in digital media
The Women’s Leadership Academy provides camaraderie and concrete advice beyond a bundle of platitudes.
Come talk ad blockers with Nieman Lab and a set of experts in New York
We’re having our first event in New York City with industry leaders: Wednesday, December 2 at 6 p.m.
What to read next
How one blog helped spark The New York Times’ digital evolution
“I certainly had editors tell me that I shouldn’t be wasting my time on Bird Week. But that was the best part of City Room…We were like unsupervised children.”
572News outlets left and right (and up, down, and center) are embracing virtual reality technology
Among those experimenting is The Wall Street Journal, which plans to open source its 360-degree mobile video and VR technology and hopes to turn VR into more of a mainstay of its storytelling.
502Podcasting in 2015 feels a lot like blogging circa 2004: exciting, evolving, and trouble for incumbents
The same trends we saw a decade ago — professionalization on one hand, platformization on the other — sure seem to be playing out again.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Hechinger Report
The New Republic
The Globe and Mail
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
San Diego News Network