Did you know that the UW has its own mobile website and apps?
In 2009, the UW launched the mobile website m.UW and mobile apps for iPhone and Blackberry to provide news, references, maps, events, and other campus information. I studied the University’s mobile strategy for my “Mobile Media and Communications” class, and talked to David Morton, Director of Mobile Communication Strategies at the UW. What I found was that the UW mobile services are gaining recognition among diverse academic community but rapid change of mobile technologies requires their constant improvement and adaptation to users’ demand.
Although iPhone dominates the smartphone usage in the University now, it’s expected that in 2011 and Android app will follow.
* Data from Freshly Mobile
The UW mobile app has important LBS (Location Based Service) feature, which lets you locate departments, centers, buildings on campus on the go. But the feature is not interactive enough. The “Maps” have limited capabilities with non-optimized results. For example, users can only find a spot on a static map but no routes of direction to guide them between different buildings in Campus. Users also complained that information is uncompleted. For instance, one user left a review at the Blackberry AppWorld (UW, 2009): “I go to the Tacoma campus and they offered no information about that campus.”
The user experiences of UW mobile site need to be improved as well, especially in using navigation and searching information on the go. If you open the “News” section and try to read full article, you will be redirected to the official UW website (PC version) which is not optimized for mobile phones. News is essential for many visitors of the mobile site as it is updated daily and attracts returning visitors.
The organizational structure of UW and diversity of its community make an integrated mobile plan difficult to execute. The decision-making process and development of mobile services are shared among UW Marketing, UW Information Technology, the Registrar’s Office, UW Athletics, UW libraries, and schools. One general mobile site may not be able to fulfill the diverse needs of such a huge university. Each school or administrated department should have its own mobile site and connect with the UW portal mobile site.
Another problem is the lack of feedback from users to developers. Based on interviews with UW mobile users, a critical step for m.UW is to start targeting mobile media to appropriate audiences: current students, visitors, educators, and measuring of their behavior and feedback.
LBS (location-based services) and searches are the two most valuable features of successful mobile media. Users need interactive map functions that assist common tasks like finding parking lots, on-campus shuttles, recreational facilities places, and ATMs on campus. It’s also crucial to include information about all campuses of the UW in databases to fulfill every student’s needs. Furthermore, mobile technologies are developing rapidly and always require the implementations for new different devices. The mobile strategy of UW should not only focus on feature phones and smart phones, but should plan to expand to tablets in near future.