My iPad provides a pleasant way to browse the web. Safari is reasonably standards compliant, loading and navigating pages is quite nippy, and it is quick and easy to zoom and scroll around pages. There are useful tools to save pages for later and to synchronise open tabs between the Mac and iOS devices. The iPad is particularly well suited to blog reading — a quick double tap on the page content will zoom it to the full width of the page, and scrolling is smooth and immediate.
So why do bloggers try to undermine this ease of use?
I’ve noticed a grim trend; the presentation of a web site as though it were a native app. There are decent tools available to build iPad applications using web technologies, and for web sites that already behave like an application it makes sense to make that experience more iPad-like. But for blogs all it does it provide the sort of lousy experience that would make one delete a native app and go back to using Safari.
One particularly poor user experience is the Onswipe system. Available for free, it will make a website look and behave like a native app. It claims to work with any CMS, and its selling points include driving traffic and increasing page views.http://www.onswipe.com/
I get a feeling of dread when I see the twirly loading animation for an Onswipe site; I know that the site will take longer to load, be harder to read, will be split into silly narrow magazine-style columns rather than a readable block of text, will use horizontal swiping to move between pages of an article (instead of the more natural vertical scrolling down the page), will have lots of pages with little content on each, will have juddery animations, will have non-obvious icons, will disable zooming, and will have big blue arrow buttons that look like page navigation but actually are part of advert links. In other words, pretty nasty for the person browsing the site. I can see how it can drive traffic, increase page views, and increase clicks on ads: hapless users click and drag their way around the site trying to work out what they’re doing.
An example of Onswipe in action — this is how a blog post that I read this morning appears on my iPad, compared with the same post in the ‘desktop’ version of the site (which allowed the text to be scaled to the width of the iPad for ease of reading):
The selling point of appifying a blog are all to do with site owners trying to monetize their content and to control how it is viewed, so it is understandable that they see the appeal of tools like Onswipe. But it really is user hostile.