We have a mobile version of the forum for smartphones and tablets - Further improvements (and what about an App?)

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We are now mobile!

Hello everybody,

we have launched the mobile version of the Forum. Our tribute to the 21st century ;).
So we are encouraging you to use it by using this link while on your phone or tablet computer m.forum.susana.org

Please tell us your suggestions, comments or critic, by simply posting a reply to this post.
We are always happy to continue to do some fine tuning and take your suggestions for improvements on board.




Kind regards,
SuSanA secretariat.
[posted by Agazi Medhanie]

Posted by a member of the SuSanA secretariat held by the GIZ Sustainable sanitation sector program
Located at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Eschborn, Germany
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Re: We have a mobile version of the forum for smartphones and tablets - Further improvements (and what about an App?)

Dear all,

We have made further improvements to the mobile version of the forum (you can access it with this link: m.forum.susana.org). As part of these improvements, you can now access our interesting statistics page (which includes the user list) from the mobile version under the menu. See screenshot (you need to log in to be able to view the user list):



Some links that were not working properly before have now been fixed, for example a wrong link when accessing the desktop version from a tablet computer.

Furthermore, the mobile forum has now officially moved out of beta stage. Therefore, if your forum logo still says "(beta)", then you probably need to refresh your browser or empty cache.

We are really keen to hear from you about your user experiences when you use your smart phone or tablet computer to access the mobile version of the forum (m.forum.susana.org). Do you like it? Is there anything else that needs improvements?

When you use a tablet computer, like an iPad, do you prefer to use the desktop version or the mobile version?

Last but not least, we have had a closer look at the access statistics: As one would expect, the percentage of users who access the forum with a mobile device (mobile phone or tablet computer) are on the rise. Our prediction is that this will go to at least 20% within a year from now. That's why it is so important to give these users a good mobile forum experience.


(the red vertical line represents the launch of the mobile version of the forum)

Best regards,

Hector and Elisabeth

Posted by a member of the SuSanA secretariat held by the GIZ Sustainable sanitation sector program
Located at Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH, Eschborn, Germany
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Re: Is there a mobile version of the forum for smartphones and tablet computers? - Further improvements

Dear all,
If you sometimes use your mobile phone or table computer to access the discussion forum, then please read on. If not, then this post is not really of relevance to you.

As you probably know, we have created a mobile version of the forum 2.5 years ago. When accessing the forum from a smart phone or tablet computer, you should take this website:
m.forum.susana.org

We recently spent some time and money on some further improvements to this mobile version. What's new? The mobile version now also has these functionalities:
  • A "top" and "bottom" button at the end of each post which allows jumping to the start or end of the thread (very useful for long threads).
  • The option of seeing who else has "liked" a post (you need to be logged in to use the "I like this post" option and to see who else has liked the post)
  • At the beginning and at the end of a thread you now have the option to select "Subscribe" or "Favourite" (when you are logged in)
Please use this opportunity to let us know if anything else has bothered you with the mobile version for a while? Now is your chance to suggest improvements, as we could see with Steffen what can be done.

Personally, I use the mobile version a lot on my smart phone and tablet for reading (but nearly never for writing). Nothing beats a good old keyboard for typing out a (lengthy) reply... But for reading, the mobile version is great, I think.

Here is what the mobile version looks like with my phone (just to inspire you to try it out if you are a smart phone user):







What are your experiences with using the mobile version? What should be improved?

Regards,
Elisabeth

P.S.
You can see here from our statistics report that the trend of using mobile devices when accessing the forum is going up quite steeply, particularly for mobile phones:


Community manager and chief moderator of this forum via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

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Re: We have a mobile version of the forum for smartphones and tablet computers - Further improvements

A year ago, I made the above post about our mobile version of the forum (or below (if you use reverse chronological order for the posts)). Myself, I am using the mobile version more and more (since I upgraded my mobile phone recently).

I would like to invite you all to use this thread to provide suggestions on how we could improve this mobile version further. I ask now because we have a bit of money (due to the funding by the Gates Foundation) to work on this (see here Arno's recent post for more information about this project: forum.susana.org/component/kunena/139-in...it=12&start=12#19490 )

If you haven't used the mobile version yet, then please pick up your smartphone or tablet and go to the forum page: www.forum.susana.org
It should redirect you to the mobile version, as it recognises that you're coming from a smartphone or tablet.

If you want to see the mobile version on your normal computer just go to:
m.forum.susana.org

In my case, I have an icon on my smart phone that has the forum symbol (the green person). This icon looks like an app but it is actually not an app. It is just a link to the mobile version of the page.

If I had to make a suggestion I would say it would be neat if the icon could have a little red number with it to indicate to me the number of new posts since I last went to the page. A bit like the little red numbers indicating a new Whatsapp message or a new e-mail on my phone. However, I am not sure if that's possible to program, as it is not an app.

Back then we decided against developing an app in order to save money. I also think the mobile version is rather good and I don't yet see the added value an app would bring.

But please use this opportunity to provide feedback about the mobile version of our discussion forum?
I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards,
Elisabeth

P.S. We are also thinking of setting up focus groups to discuss user experiences and also to have a mailing list for people who want to get involved in this improvement process. If you want to be part of these focus groups or be part of such a mailing list, please let me know by direct e-mail. We'll put out a more formal call for this in due course, too.

Community manager and chief moderator of this forum via SEI project ( www.susana.org/en/resources/projects/details/127 )

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Re: We have a mobile version of the forum for smartphones and tablet computers - Further improvements

I think a mobile or tablet version is a great idea given that is how most people in developing countries now access the internet. Is there some way we can repeat the option of sending an email for response as well. Can this be linked to mass messaging options such as WhatsApp? I know in sanitation in India, WhatsApp has become the medium of choice for keeping tabs on progress by the government and development partners. Putting this together will help draw in more people and I can reach out to a vast network of practitioners also.

If we are reimagining the Forum, making mobile friendly and linking with messengers like WhatsApp, Hike and others will make it more accessible.

While doing so, though, it would be important to ensure the content goes through a moderator before appearing on the Forum because of the volume of information people share on these messengers.
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Re: We have a mobile version of the forum for smartphones and tablet computers - Further improvements

Dear Nitya,

Thanks for your post! I would like to understand exactly your ideas here. Firstly, have you used the mobile version of the forum on your phone or table yet? If yes, what do you think of it? Which functionalities are still missing? You can find the mobile version simply by using your mobile phone and entering www.forum.susana.org which will then redirect you to m.forum.susana.org because the system will detect that you are coming from a mobile device.

Secondly please explain further how you'd like to see it linked with Whatsapp? I use Whatsapp a lot myself but so far only for private purposes, not for work purposes.

Do you think if people could send a contribution to the forum via a Whatsapp message they would be more likely to do so than sending it by e-mail? (all registered SuSanA members can already send a message to the forum by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Whatsapp is by the way not universal, e.g. I found out that in Australia it is hardly used. Also in China, apparently WeChat is more popular.
I guess sending a message via Whatsapp would require that the secretariat made available a mobile phone number that could be used as an "inbox" from where the content would then be moderated and then placed on the forum if appropriate.

Let's continue this brainstorming of ideas, and the out-of-the box thinking to come up with communication method that people like and find convenient. :-)

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: We have a mobile version of the forum for smartphones and tablet computers - Further improvements

Dear Elisabeth

I thought I had replied earlier! Sorry.

Just went through the mobile version and its pretty functional. A few points -

1. Some colour differentiation between different sections? So the discussion headings in each section could be different colours just to ensure people know that they have moved to another section.

2. I went to Susana.org on my phone then touched the icon to go to the Forum. It took me to the PC version. The mobile version does not come on automatically. A bug maybe?

3. The mobile site is user friendly that's good. What you could consider is moving from topic to topic by side swipes. That's something many news sites offer now. A matter of programming the UI.

By linking with WhatsApp I meant allowing people to send their comments through WhatsApp to a specific number. People are using mobile messaging more than anything else, which is why I suggested WhatsApp. However, this will be a logistical nightmare in the long run - how will you control responses (only from registered members/numbers), what happens when a person changes his/her number, can the software add the response to the right thread automatically or does this have to be done manually, and then the question of universality. Even though a few countries dont use it widely, it is still one of the most popular instant messaging apps. The rest can continue using the mobile and PC versions without trouble. But then, you will have to decide if this is worth the extra work it will entail, if enabled. The other side of the argument is, if not now, then when? Will SuSanA miss the bus?

Can I publicise the mobile version as well? If its out of the testing phase it would be good to open it up. What do you say?

The mobile version could also have some polling features, options to set up and respond to surveys. To save screen space, you can remove the Mobile Version band on top and the welcome <name>, and logout band. The logout button can do into the Recent topic band. At the bottom, the Powered by Kuena and time to create page text can do (unless its a legal requirement).

I didnt see an option to vary text size - maybe useful to have something in the first screen or in the menu/settings.

In the reply area can there is be some added functionality of inserting photos (an icon) or videos as there is in the PC version. ATM its plain text.

Hope these help.

Warm regards
Nitya
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Re: We have a mobile version of the forum for smartphones and tablet computers - Further improvements

Dear Nitya,

Thanks a lot for your valuable feedback. I will pass on the technical suggestions to our IT developer Steffen (perhaps he can even reply directly here).

That's a worry that your mobile phone didn't go automatically to the mobile version! Steffen tried to set it up so that it does but there are so many different operating systems that perhaps yours fell through the cracks. Which phone and operating system are you using?

If the phone doesn't automatically go to the mobile version you need to click at the bottom of the page on "mobile version" or enter the mobile version URL and save that as a shortcut:

m.forum.susana.org

You asked:

Can I publicise the mobile version as well? If its out of the testing phase it would be good to open it up. What do you say?


Answer: yes, absolutely, please. It's been out of the testing phase for several years (we seem to have failed to make this better known!?). Does it still somewhere say that it is in testing phase?

The queestion has also been raised if we should have an App?.

The mobile version was created on a shoestring budget some years ago. Now that we have new money from the Gates Foundation for SuSanA (see announcement here: forum.susana.org/component/kunena/10-ann...l-knowledge-platform ) we could spend some money on upgrading the mobile version and/or perhaps creating an App.

Personally, I am not so sure what an App could give us that a good mobile version can't (personally, I hesitate to download Apps to my phone because I worry about running out of storage space) but I wanted to put the question out here for everyone. Let's do a bit of brainstorming!

We can also think about the link with Whatsapp more. As typing is cumbersome on a small screen of a smartphone perhaps people could use the recording function of their phone and then send what they want to say as an mp4 sound file. I do that quite a bit with Whatsapp when I am too lazy to type my messages to friends. Actually even better if the sound was also converted to text (possible in Whatsapp).

Anyhow, overall we'll have to carefully assess which new functionalities would be worthwhile to create and result in a better user experience for users of the Forum.

What do you all think about the current mobile version, possible improvements and the App option?

Regards,
Elisabeth

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Re: We have a mobile version of the forum for smartphones and tablet computers - Further improvements

To give you some further background information about the possible SuSanA Forum App (or even SuSanA Forum + Website App), here is information from Steffen by e-mail (I might break this off into a separate thread in future):

++++++

Hello Elisabeth,

the question is what should this App offer? Should it just include mobile content from the website that users don't need to open there browser (a)? Or are we talking about special contents and functions besides the web content (b)?

For (a) don't know if you want spent some money and days to program for iOS / Android and to register it in the stores? It means a few days work and will display only the mobile content view of the website and maybe if the forum is responsive in future after upgrade too. But then you have just the system browser of your device inside the app that only displays the content from the websites with no browser bar, search field and so on. But mostly users don't recognize and many Apps work this way to just have a feeling that they do have an App.

for (b) the question is what functions and content you need? Should for example all appearance, data storage, login and user data on device etc. managed by the App and saved there it will cost thousands of Euro and amount will grow fast to 5 digits.

Then there would be an option in between: just create special content for the App inside a webpage and put that webpage inside the App with its own content and/or styles next to the "original" mobile website. Than you have the cost of (a) and the costs for the special content for the App but with technique of webpages and almost no programming for the two different systems (iOS and Android) is needed. The daily fees for iOS and Android programmer these days are almost two thirds higher than for "normal" HTML5 web programming.

Hope this helps on the quick!
Steffen

+++++++++++

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Re: We have a mobile version of the forum for smartphones and tablet computers - Further improvements

By the way, this is how the SuSanA Discussion Forum is present on my mobile phone, see the light green icon in the middle of the screen:



It looks like an App, doesn't it? It's not. It's simply a shortcut to the mobile version of the website.

How to get this shortcut icon onto your phone?
  1. Take your phone and go to the internet and put in www.forum.susana.org
  2. Does it take you directly to the mobile version (which has larger font, less detail and looks better on the phone than the desktop version)?
  3. If not then type in m.forum.susana.org into your browser. This takes you to the mobile version. It looks like this: Mobile Version of Forum
  4. And then create a shortcut on your desktop to that URL (there is normally a button at the top right or a pull down menu that lets you create shorcuts.
How about trying it out now and then posting a screenshot of your own phone here in this thread or on Twitter in reply to me (@EvMuench) or to @susana_org

Regards,
Elisabeth

P.S. Now I wish it would come up with a little red 1, 2, 3 for indicating the number of new posts (like the number you see with my Whatsapp icon where I had one new message)

P.P.S You can also get to the mobile version by clicking on the link at the very bottom of the page (see red oval marking the link):


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Re: We have a mobile version of the forum for smartphones and tablet computers - Further improvements

Thanks Elisabeth!

Having this shortcut on my phone is going to remind me to log in and keep up to date with the discussions on the forum! (visual prompts always help behaviour change! :lol: )

Just to add, for those with iphones, once you log into the mobile version of the site a prompt appears at the bottom of the screen which you can click on to "Add to homescreen".

Here's a screenshot of mine although it was a little difficult to upload as it's not possible to post photos into the discussion using the mobile version..

Ruth Miskelly
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Re: We have a mobile version of the forum for smartphones and tablets - Further improvements (and what about an App?)

Easy. Great instructions, Elisabeth. The pull down menu choice for my Android phone was "Add to Home Screen."

Diane M. Kellogg
Bentley University Faculty, Management Department
Partner, Kellogg Consultants
Chair, Sanitation Wikipedia
Private Sector Specialist, SuSanA (BMGF grant)
Marketing Consultant, PRISTO (RVO-funded grant)
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