Accordance Blog
May 14, 2014 Matt Kenyon

Swiping, Tapping, and Scrolling into the Future

It’s no secret that we are right in the middle of the mobile revolution. In January 2014, mobile devices accounted for 55% of internet usage in the United States, officially surpassing desktop internet usage. That was four months ago, and the numbers have undoubtedly risen. As a business, we knew that if our users were on smartphones and tablets, that’s where we needed to be, too. We quickly realized that a vital step to catering to this new trend was optimizing our website for mobile devices.

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Mobile optimization is a catch-all term that simply refers to the editing of a website to suit the mobile user's experience. Every business has different goals when it considers optimizing its website for mobile devices. Here were three of ours:

Scalability

Have you ever visited a website and had to "pinch-to-zoom" your screen just to read what seemed like microscopic font? Have you ever gotten so frustrated with this pursuit that you’ve given up altogether? That’s the opposite of mobile optimization (one might even say it’s mobile-phobic) and it’s the very thing we wanted to get away from.iPhonesize We needed scalability, the ability to resize the content on our site to various screen sizes without compromising the visibility of images, text, and other elements. Our site now looks great on big and small screens alike.

Finger-friendliness

Another crucial difference between desktop and mobile browsing is that users aren't going to be navigating our website with the traditional means of a keyboard and mouse. Flicking, tapping, scrolling, and swiping have officially trumped typing in the mobile revolution. For this reason, banners, links, and menu items needed to be sized appropriately for tapping. Tiny buttons would only frustrate our fast-fingered users.

Functionality

We wanted to keep the user experience as close to that of the desktop site as possible, but when you start downsizing, things inevitably get crowded. Not every element on our homepage would fit on a 4-inch screen. We quickly realized that we needed to make some cuts. We considered scrapping the Tour page of our mobile site, but the optimized functionality was so slick, we ultimately decided to adapt it. Today, users can still access the content on this page through any device.

Learning as we go

We decided against creating a separate mobile site (which was the only solution for years) because it has many disadvantages. Instead we used a responsive technology that reorganizes the pages and swaps the content based on the screen width, or the window width on a computer. You can try it out by varying the window size in your browser.

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We tried removing the site search functionality on mobile, which meant that users could no longer quickly jump to a specific product page or blog post. We quickly realized our mistake and restored a mobile-friendly site search tool. We were learning to roll with the punches.

All things considered, we’re quite pleased with the mobile site we’re currently operating with, yet eager to embrace any new technologies coming down the pike.

If you’re reading this blog post on an iPad, iPhone or Android device, you’re a perfect case study. The reason you don’t need to squint or pinch to read this text is because of this optimization initiative. Thankfully, we saw the wave of the mobile revolution rapidly approaching and rather than get swept away in the changing tides — we resolved to ride it.


 

Jan 9, 2012 David Lang

Bible Study Without Angst

Angst Have you ever experienced this? You're feeling stressed, uncertain about something, frustrated, or full of doubt, so you decide to read the Bible. You open to a random passage and start reading, only to experience a wave of peace and calm come over you. In the midst of overwhelming and confusing circumstances, the simple act of reading the Bible brings comfort—like a dependable anchor in the midst of a storm-tossed sea.

As a tool for studying the Bible, one would hope that Bible software would help facilitate such moments of comfort and serenity. Unfortunately, I see a surprising amount of angst among Bible software users these days.

Much of this angst comes from the fact that Bible study apps are not merely programs but platforms, and "Choosing a platform involves a level of commitment which is greater than that involved in choosing a program." (For more on Bible software as a platform, see Which is the "Best" Bible Software?)

Buying into a Bible software platform involves risk, and that's largely the cause of the angst I've seen. What if your platform of choice goes out of business or stops innovating? It has happened to a number of Bible software developers over the years, and when it does the users who have invested in those platforms suffer as a result. When I first started with Accordance, there were at least half a dozen commercial or quality shareware Bible programs for the Mac, but over the years most of them disappeared or became irrelevant. Many current Accordance users came to us when these other platforms were no longer viable. Hoping to avoid losing their investment in those platforms, they had tried to hold on for long-promised improvements that never came. When they finally switched to Accordance, they would typically express their regret that they hadn't done so sooner.

Then there's the angst experienced by those whose platforms of choice prove unreliable or frustrating. Instability, bugginess, poor performance, erroneous results, failure to adapt to changing technologies, and updates which break more than they fix are shockingly common. When you consider that most people who invest in Bible software depend on it for their work, ministries, and academic studies, such ongoing unreliability becomes even more troubling.

At Accordance, our goal is to offer a Bible study experience without angst. For us it's a simple matter of trust. You trust us to provide you with a reliable platform you can count on for years to come, and we're determined to keep that trust. Ultimately, it comes down to this: if the Bible is where you should turn for relief from angst, your Bible software ought to be as angst-free as possible.


 

Jan 7, 2011 David Lang

Which is the "Best" Bible Software?

When you see a car commercial on television, does the commercial ever claim that the car is the "best"? As a description, "best" is rather bland, and frankly, it's too general to be meaningful. Instead, car companies distinguish their vehicles as the "fastest," "safest," "greenest," "most fuel-efficient," "longest-lasting," or "most luxurious." Think of any other product category, and you'll see the same thing happening. In almost every case, there are too many variables to consider when determining which product is "best." The question is always, "Best in what way?"

When it comes to Bible software, however, it seems that the question prospective buyers ask is, "Which is best?" And the answer every Bible software developer is tempted to give is, "We're the best." No qualifications or clear distinctions are given; just grandiose claims like "best Bible software in the universe" or something to that effect.

Why aren't Bible software developers (or their users) more judicious in their claims? My theory is that Bible software developers are creating a platform rather than merely a program.

What is the difference? Programs are designed to meet specific purposes or applications, which is probably why they're called applications. Competition among applications of the same class can certainly be fierce, but the developer of a word processor is hardly bothered when some—or even all—of their customers purchase spreadsheet software. A platform, on the other hand, is a hardware or software choice on which other choices depend. For example, your choice of computer or smartphone will largely determine which software choices you make. Choosing a platform involves a level of commitment which is greater than that involved in choosing a program. If you choose the wrong word processor you may regret the purchase and have to pay again to buy a better one, but if you choose the wrong computer platform, you may find lots of reasons to regret that choice. What's more, the hassle and expense involved in switching platforms may force you to live with your unfortunate platform choice for quite some time.

Because resources purchased for one Bible program cannot be used with any other program, Bible software functions as a platform for future software purchases. Software programs which compete on features alone (like word processors) may be able to leapfrog each other and attract users who need a particular feature, but Bible software programs must compete on the relative merits of their platform: the features of the software itself, the resources available for it, the reputation of the company that develops it, etc.

Some users get around this problem by using more than one Bible software program. For example, you might choose Program A because you want a commentary only available for that platform, and Program B for another commentary only available for it. This is analogous to someone using a Windows machine to run some Windows-only software and a Mac to run Mac-only software. Yet this is only a partial solution. First, not everyone can afford to buy into two different Bible software platforms, just as not many of us can afford to buy into two different computer platforms. Second, the choice to use two different platforms requires an investment of time to learn both platforms. Third, when you use two different platforms to accomplish a single task (namely, studying the Bible), you may want to exchange information between the two platforms in some way, and that again, may involve additional hassle.

Since using more than one platform is not without its drawbacks, most people try to choose the one that is the "best." That of course leads us back to the challenge of determining which is best. Every platform has its strengths and weaknesses, so every one may be "best" in some respects while less than best in others. The challenge of choosing the "best" platform is therefore in determining which factors are most important to you and deciding which platform offers the right balance of those factors.

Here at Accordance, we have always tended to focus on the features of the software itself rather than on all the other advantages of the Accordance platform, but I'll discuss those various advantages in several upcoming posts. I'll probably also wax philosophical about how this platform aspect of Bible software affects you as users. I'm hopeful, of course, that most of you reading this blog are already sold on Accordance as a platform, but hopefully you'll still find the discussion interesting. :-)