A first mobile theme for DSpace

In early 2012, as I was finishing up with my annual report -and in consultation with my supervisor- I decided to add a “mobile theme for DSpace” to my summer to-do list :-) …  why a mobile interface for DSpace? well, I kind of had three reasons/justifications for this: a) I wanted to learn a bit more of the jQuery Mobile framework; b) we wanted to have a mobile interface for our Scholarly Commons project; and c) there was no mobile theme for DSpace -at least not back then.

The real “adventure” started in late May when I sent a message to the DSpace-tech listserv, the replies confirmed that a JIRA ticket for this topic was created back in September 2011 … I also got some good ideas about the actual implementation of a mobile theme.  The next step included some “basic” planning which included two key activities: a) creating a wireframe for the mobile interface; and b) researching for some mobile “best practices” out there.   For the wireframe design, I tried to stick to some basic rules such as “data entry on mobile devices should be minimized” or “keep it simple and clean” … so because of those rules, I took the liberty to make some decisions/assumptions.  For instance, the DSpace mobile interface will be for regular DSpace users; therefore, it was ok to remove the entire ds-options sidebar, which usually contains all of the “administrative” functions.  For the research activity, it was absolutely useful to spend part of a Friday afternoon watching the Mobile Web Design & Development Fundamentals tutorial by Joe Marini.

In mid July, I had a mobile theme running on a second copy of the XMLUI webapp in a DSpace 1.6 installation -now, I know that this is probably NOT the best way to do this- but back then this was the only way I got it to work and it allowed me to continue to test/tweak some CSS, XML, XSL, and JS files.  One of the most special -but also trouble and confusing- days was when I installed a couple of device emulators.  The Opera Mobile Emulator & the Android SDK were very useful in testing and adjusting the site to small screen sizes (even 320×240); the iOS Simulator worked just fine; but the real headache was with the Windows Phone Emulator because it simply didn’t work … after a good time researching about the “not loading” error, I learned that it was an HTML element without a closing tag :-(

In early August, a colleague and I run some last tests and we believed it was time to share the link with others and start collecting some feedback … at the same time, we wanted to test the new theme on an OhioLINK test machine.  I soon learned that duplicating the XMLUI webapp was neither effective nor sustainable -especially in a shared infrastructure.  This is where two developers at OhioLINK came up with a solution -using a second domain name- that works great and looks robust.

And today, we’re pleased to actually see it up and running on a production machine.  So if you’re curious about it, please visit http://sc.lib.muohio.edu/ and if your device isn’t detected as mobile, try this URL http://mobile.sc.lib.muohio.edu/.  As with anything “new” … there is definitely room for improvement and we’ll welcome comments and feedback :-)