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Andrew Nagy was kind enough to send us this review of mobile trends. Enjoy!


As we prepare our yearly goals and plans for the New Year, we must factor in some level of innovation and change – always try to do something new.  I like to look at what trends are emerging in the greater technology industry to inspire our goals. 

As technology changes and evolves, so do our users expectations.  When our users come to the library they will have some expectations that our services look and function similarly to these services.  Keeping a keen eye will also help us to stay ahead of the curve and experiment to see what works best for our users. 

We have a lot to look forward to in 2014.  Mobile technology has embraced us and is now apart of our everyday life.  So much so, that 56% of American adults are now smartphone owners[1] and of them 63% use their smart phones to access the web according to the latest Pew research[2]. Moreover, 72% of American college students own a smartphone and this past year saw an increase in tablet ownership totaling 37% with 83% of students feeling that tablets will transform learning [3]. 

During the 2012 Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco, top execs from Google announced that a majority of its users will come from mobile devices in 2013[4].  With the shear size of Google’s user base, this number will be astronomical.  Facebook reported a similar pattern in the middle of 2012 when the average number of minutes spent on Facebook’s mobile app exceeded the average number of minutes spent on Facebook’s website[5].

This change in usage behavior will create new demands and expectations from those who provide content and services online.  Libraries will begin to deal with more and more users who expect to be able to access content, utilize library services and connect with other researchers via a mobile device.  Found in a recent study from the Pew Research Center, use of mobile devices to access a library web site has doubled since 2009[6].  We can only predict exponential increases from here on out for this type of access – especially for academic libraries. 

We’ve already heard from one Ph.D. student who thanked Serials Solutions for providing a wonderful user experience on the iPad with the Summon service – she was doing her complete Ph.D. dissertation using an iPad and she did not own a computer.  Leveraging the capabilities of these devices will provide new opportunities for providing services and access to content.  For example, a component of the Android operating system incorporates contextual awareness – meaning it knows what you are doing in the physical world and helps to make suggestions[7].  Taking this a step further, the Summon service has started to integrate contextual awareness by recommending research guides and related librarians who can help based on your search terms[8]. 

Maybe in the future, Summon can start to make recommendations on the most recent research in biology or recommend the biology librarian to assist you if you are currently located in the biology building on campus.  Being able to leverage the user’s context will help make library services and content more valuable to the user.

So what does this all mean for us today?  Do we need to create our own mobile apps, or mobile library catalogs or mobile library websites?  The answer is in a new emerging trend: Responsive Design.  This concept, coined by web designer Ethan Marcotte from the A List Apart blog, preaches the notion of what we often refer to here at Serials Solutions: “one app, all devices.”  This means that your web application or web page should leverage the latest techniques in HTML5 and CSS3 to allow the web page to “respond” to the user’s screen size.  To illustrate this, let’s look at an example.

  1. First go here:
  2. Then in the upper left hand corner, type in
  3. Try choosing from the different display options in the top bar to see how the web site responds to the different screen sizes

There are some wonderful technologies out there to help simplify the process of bringing your web site into a responsive design.  A great place to start is with Bootstrap, an open source CSS framework developed by Twitter, or the Pure CSS framework from Yahoo!.  These toolkits allow you to frame out your web pages and control the layout based on the screen size.  Another great tool for testing your layouts is the Responsive Viewer noted above.  This tool allows you to view your web page from the perspective of different devices (a desktop computer, a tablet, and a smart phone, etc.).

It is important to begin adopting a mental shift that has already happened with the development teams at Google[9]. As you begin to look at your library’s plans and goals for 2013, ask yourself, “How would a user of the library be able to access all of the library’s services and resources from a mobile device?”











25 Feb 2014 | Posted by Andrew Nagy

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