I’ve recently spent a while tweaking Today’s Guardian, my site that makes it as easy as possible to read the current issue of the Guardian newspaper (read more about the project). The changes are mostly improvements for those using iPads, iPhones and iPod Touches. Here are the details:
On the iPad version I’ve added areas to the right and left of the page that will take you to the next or previous articles. Swiping left or right still works, but this can get tiresome if you’re reading (or skipping) a lot of articles. Touching the margins is much quicker and easier.
On the iPad version, articles which were very short (such as those where the main text wasn’t available) didn’t recognise swipes in the “empty” area of the page. This is now fixed, with the article’s footer being positioned at the bottom of the page. (This is also done on the desktop version, as it also simply looks neater.)
On the iPad version, the small text has been made slightly bigger; it was previously just too small to read comfortably.
On all versions the article’s byline has been made slightly darker; it seemed slightly too light relative to its importance.
On the iPhone version the main text has all been made smaller. Previously, the text was so big the site was almost unusable.
On all versions that support it, words will be hyphenated where appropriate. Currently this is probably only on iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch devices. (Read more about web hyphenation.) I’m not convinced by Safari’s built in hyphenation rules, but we’ll see how it goes.
The sparkline/navigation at the top of the page will now compress horizontally if it would otherwise stretch onto two rows (although this is often unavoidable on iPhones/iPod Touches). This makes it a little narrower than I’d like, but on balance it’s much neater. Its text remains the same size.
Articles that have no body copy because the Guardian’s API doesn’t provide it due to rights issues now have their “See original” links linking to the more minimal and readable “print” version of the article. I’ll still never bother to read those articles though.
These are quite small changes but took a surprisingly long time to get right. As is often the way with the little details.
There are still things I’d like to fix. The major ones are:
On the iPad, swiping left or right sometimes causes a “double” slide of the article (issue on GitHub).
The list of articles from today’s paper is still constructed by scraping this page, which is often a little odd (strangely-ordered articles at the end of the “Main section” for example). I’d like to rely solely on the API, but its support for page numbers seems spotty (issue on GitHub).
Rotating the iPhone doesn’t cause the page widths to resize correctly. Refreshing the page fixes it, but this isn’t ideal (issue on GitHub).
I doubt those will be fixed very soon however. Also, I have never looked at the site on any Android device as I don’t have one. Apologies if it looks terrible, and any suggestions for Android improvements are welcome.
In the meantime I hope those of you who like Today’s Guardian continue to do so.