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The NEW NordicSkiRacer: Mobile friendly!

Fri, Oct  31, 2014 - By Mike Muha

It's a mobile world. There are more people buying smartphones and tablets than PCs. I spend far more time using my Samsung Galaxy Note 4 phone or Google Nexus 7 tablet to surf web sites, rather than using my laptop.


But when I went to http://www.NordicSkiRacer.com, I had to rotate my phone on it's side and zoom in to read text. The site needed a freshing up - this was an opportunity to redesign the site with mobile in mind.


Oh what to do. Should I build a mobile app? Design separate pages depending on screen size? A mobile app was out of the question: NordicSkiRacer is a labor of love, but I have a real day job and learning to design a mobile app to work with the countless phones and tablets out there just wasn't in the cards. And I certainly didn't want to design web pages for each screen size. That left one option:


Responsive web design.


"Responsive" means the layout of web pages adjusts dynamically, taking into account the characteristics of the device used (desktop, tablet, mobile phone).  There are several frameworks out there; I choose "Bootstrap", designed by Mark Otto and Jacob Thornton at Twitter. Bootstrap is an HTML, CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), and JS (Java Script) framework that emphasizes responsive design by default.


Are you on a PC right now? Try resizing your browser windows right now and see what happens. On a phone or tablet? Try turning the device on it's side. Photos shrink automatically. Things move reorder on the page. Most importantly, the web site is now as readable on a smartphone as on a PC.


After the decision to use Bootstrap, I spent much of the summer and fall rewriting the web site, converting to a new database, and figuring out how Bootstrap worked. Admittedly, I'm an hack when it comes to designing and coding web sites...there was quite a learning curve. (If you wondered why my training log is so sparse, and why there seemed to be less new content on NordicSkiRacer, now you now.)


Most of the old web site has been converted. Some of the content is missing and will be added over the next few weeks. Some of the pages are not designed the way I like, and I'll be fixing them over time. I also had to work with my advertisers to change ad sizes, since some of the old ad sizes just don't work well on a mobile device.


I also dropped some pages...for now. The Forums is gone. That technology was too old to bring forward, and for every new user request, I had HUNDREDS of bogus requests to wade through. The weather page is gone for now. I'm still trying to figure out if it's useful or not or if it should just be integrated into the trail reports and wax recommendations.


Finally, the back end is much easier for me to maintain with the new design. I should be able to add or modify features more easily.


I'm sure there are bugs and design flaws, but it was simply time to make the change. I hope you like the redesign! Tell me about things that don't work right...


Mike Muha
mike.muha@NordicSkiRacer.com