Fetch Gets Mobile!
I'm very pleased to tell you about the new mobile version of Fetcheveryone. Over the years, I've had an increasing number of people asking me when I would be bringing out the 'Fetch App' - but it's a conversation that always plays out a certain way. I would start blogging about my intentions to develop an iPhone app, only for Android users to pipe up to tell me that I should cater for them first - and vice versa.
There's no getting away from the fact that smartphones are everywhere these days. Across the world, they are used by more people than have access to toothbrushes. In the UK, 58% of adults use mobiles to access the Internet, up from 24% back in 2010. And even on Fetch, which up until recently hasn't really made any concessions for mobile users, 45% of you access it via mobile devices.
It was clear therefore, that something needed to happen. There's pressure from above too - and I don't mean my corporate overlords in London. Google have stated that they intend to give preference in search results to sites that are mobile-friendly, and demote those that aren't.
But as I alluded to earlier, building a fully-fledged app for each competing smartphone was a daunting task. So I put together a quick poll to help me focus my attentions - and the results were very helpful. I wanted to understand whether people wanted something that they could stick in their pockets whilst they ran, or just a neater way of browsing the website. The vast majority of respondents wanted the latter - which helped me enormously.
Rather than learning how to create GPS-enabled apps for iOS, Android, Windows, Blackberry - you name it - I was free to build just one solution - the mobile website. Each smartphone is different, but the one thing they all have in common is an Internet browser - and there are long-established standards about web pages that all the major players adopt. True, with the multitude of devices, operating systems and screen sizes on the market, it's not a trivial task - but it means that I can write code and fix bugs once, not four times.
In producing the mobile site, my intention is to give you access to the most popular parts of the website. Indeed, I started by making a copy of the main site, and pruning it like a psychotic Alan Titchmarsh, keeping only the things you're likely to read or check whilst on the move. It has all the core stuff you'll be used to - most importantly your training log, but also gives you access to the forum, race listings, blogs, pictures, buddies - hopefully presented in such a way that a finger tip and a half-decent pair of eyes will see you through.
One thing I don't want to do is to force you to use one version or the other. Some sites will detect the device you're browsing with, and shove you onto the desktop or mobile site accordingly. This can be frustrating - particularly for those of you who are happy zooming in and out on pages that you've become accustomed to. If you search for the site via a search engine, you might find that it will try to be helpful, and point you at the version it thinks you want - but there'll always be a link at the bottom of every page of the mobile site that will take you back to the equivalent page on the desktop site - so you'll never be far from home.
Just like its big brother, the mobile site isn't quite finished. There are pages here and there that need to be tidied up, trimmed down, or taken outside and shot. I like to think that the site is a metaphor for our own abilities as runners. None of us are perfect, all of us are working hard to improve, and we accept it with honesty and an enthusiasm for what we do. There's no airbrushing here, just the awesome power of a group of people who enjoy running. So if you see a problem somewhere, or have any thoughts that you want to share, leave a comment below, or as always, send me some feedback.