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Ask HN: Why is HN not mobile friendly yet?
97 points by AliAdams on Aug 23, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 57 comments
I know this gets asked all the time, but to me, the more the question is asked, the more meaningful the lack of response is.

Why isn't HN updated for viewing on a mobile?

- I would wager a vast number of users use their mobile to view the site (or at least want to) - The change required is tiny; I'm sure even I'm this thread someone will be able to propose the optimal change to make. - Varied screen sizes are not going to go away so the change needs to be made at some point - It seems fundamentally against the ethos of a company like YC to not adapt to the changing needs of their user base

I'm sure there are more, but I think that is enough.

Can someome explain to me (and the others asking) why this hasn't already been done and, more importantly if this will ever happen?

Yes, it will happen. Yes, we're working on it. The reasons it's taking so long are: (1) the change required is not tiny; and (2) everyone working on it has many other things to do, most of which are more pressing.

That doesn't make it a low priority (it's a high priority), but it means we have to do it as a background process.

I know that you must be sick writing that response, and I'm sure I'm missing the complexity somewhere, but it's been put off for years now.

Maybe the conflict is that you want to do everything in a big step; making vote buttons etc more accessible, but there are some quick changes (I mean maybe 2 lines added to the style sheet which surely is one file?) that would make a vast improvement at least to our ability to use HN on our phones.

If you guys are lacking time, I'm sure that there are some companies out there who would love the kudos of some pro bono work.

If only there were some way to make source code accessible to the general public, and to allow people to... i don't know, "request" various changes be... "pulled" into the codebase?

As a fellow very busy programmer I can easily see where you're coming from, but surely for several years time a background task must be pushed to the highest prio tickets eventually?

Even if you simply steal LWN.net's very basic comments CSS, it wouldn't take you more than a full working day, including testing on few iPhones and different-resolution Androids.

A passionate community whose quality of life needs aren't met is a big missed opportunity and I find it strange that I have to be telling you that.

Apples and oranges, but still -- don't forget what happened to SourceForge. Used to be the go-to place years ago. Now it employs malware technics to not go broke.

Everybody can have hubris when famous, busy and (somewhat) rich. Question is -- can you treat your community right even at the height of your pique in popularity and usage?

It's shameful and baffling that the community must take over with shady proxy sites and apps to fill a gap you've been avoiding to fill for years.

Suppose, and anecdotally for me it's a very plausible supposition, that there are significant qualitative differences between users' behavior when interacting via mobile browsers versus desktop browsers. This would make improving HN more complex than simply changing CSS styles. User behavior matters more than browser behavior in terms of the value HN does or doesn't provide.

In pure speculation, it is possible that mobile/desktop browsers correlate with the pipeline into YC's primary business. Though the business is probably clearer.

But me, and many others, aren't requesting full redesign so as we can interact with this site like in a native app. I don't request the perfect UX. I would simply like a mobile-friendly website with:

(1) Bigger font size; (2) Proper line wrapping; (3) Offset for nested comments. Something like 5%, no more than 10%; (4) Bigger buttons|links for the upvote / downvote / comment actions.

...and I think that's all.

As a programmer myself I know the terrible, almost like drug|alcohol addiction, need to make everything perfect on the first go, but at 35, with total of 23 years doing programming, of which 14 as a professional experience, I am perfectly aware that this is not possible.

Iterative changes, one by one.

People will complain even if you clean a pile of fresh shit which gets in their way every day. That's hardly an argument against cleaning it up anyway. Whoever wants to be stuck in 90s and craves poisonous USENET romantic dreams -- I sincerely wish they would finally move on.

(That's one of my possible explanations on why would people be unhappy with a mobile UI readability improvements)

In the end, I'll simply install one HN Android app and then cripple its permissions with AppOps for Lollipop and be done with it. Or move to another website / Twitter feed. <shrugs>

That would seem to be probably true, that the nature of the interface shapes the nature of the community in some way, but I don't understand how it follows that mobile browser use implies poor user behavior.

My anecdotal observation of sample size one is that I tend to write better using a laptop or desktop system than when using a mobile OS, and when using a mobile OS, pop up touch screen keyboards tend to produce worse writing than mechanical keyboards.

I suspect that YC could have measures of comment quality and record browser agents. It certainly has the mental muscle to correlate them if it has them.

> The change required is tiny; I'm sure even I'm this thread someone will be able to propose the optimal change to make.

Apparently, it's not tiny, which was the response that came up the last time.

...the last time was about two years ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=7330107

They did roll out a tiny mobile fix in March: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9206427

The site would be dramatically more mobile friendly with the addition of 2 css rules: textarea { width: 100%; } table { width: 100%; }

So it doesn't seem like the problem is completely insoluble.

Maybe, YC is trying to teach you something about product building. Something like: "we don't make our site mobile friendly because the content is so good that people still use it on their phone even if they have to zoom in a little. The day when people stop coming to hacker news or apply to YC because it's not mobile friendly, then we might do something about it. Otherwise it's just a waste of time and money for us." In other words: don't rush into building everything people ask you to do, they might not really need it.

It's probably not what they intend to do... But still worth thinking about ;)

In general, this is a very valuable lesson in software. it's easy to wish but often a wish is very different than a need. with limited resource, each move much gain you some real advantage, like in chess.

In this particular case, I am bit more reserved : why not ask a (well-known) contractor ? I am pretty sure pg just have to ask to get tens of high caliber lisp hacker proposals.

I've found this site as one of the easier to use ones on mobile?

Exactly. As far as I'm concerned, HN IS (!!!) mobile friendly. I'm so sick of the garbage mobile formatting that is ubiquitous these days. Give me a clean desktop version any day. Pinch to zoom FTW. 2009 was way easier to browse on the iPhone than 2015, what happened? Granted, there is an occasional gem but they are the rare exception. Perhaps bump the frontsize up a bit, but I don't see how HN could really be mobile 'optimized' in a good way.

Have my upvote for your opinion.

Problem is, that you're basically "forced" to produce a mobile site by Google, otherwise you'll be way down in the SERPs :(

I never understood the point of mobile sites - i'm perfectly capable of pinching my screen, in case something is unreadable (which isn't too much, given retina screens and all that...)

Just expounding... Take for example epicurious.com: super useful reference I've used for over a DECADE. I had no problems using it on my mobile/tablet devices, ever.. Until the mobile rewrite earlier this year. Rendered almost USELESS! If there was only an 'old version' button...

Sorry I just downvoted you by mistake because the controls are too damn small for touch, hope you don't mind.

It took 5 tries hitting the reply button, accidently giving you a down vote in the process...

The text having a fix width is a pain. On my screen and with my eyes, I have to zoom in and scroll each line back and forth. Makes it annoying to read.

Which browser are you using? On Android, both Firefox and Chrome have the option to increase the font size, allowing you to read comments without zooming in.

The lack of text reflow when zooming in is really annoying though.

My biggest gripe on mobile is that the controls are too small and too closely placed. Site itself is reasonably readable (could be better). But odds of upvotng, downvoting, or opening the author's user profile page are pretty much a crapshoot.

Hacker News does not have a responsive layout, which is generally what is considered "mobile friendly" in 2015.

Also sizes: fonts, controls. I don't understand how people can call "mobile-friendly" site with extra small font and horizontal scroll - maybe they hate own eyes or it's hidden form of masochism?

Agreed. It's laid out in such a simple way it's easy to navigate and read.

I can fit 25 posts on the screen on iPhone 6 which is nice for browsing - ihackernews makes everything bigger and drops me down to 4/5.

Keep it the way it is if we're voting on it ;-)

In the meanwhile, this is super mobile and tablet-friendly: http://cheeaun.github.io/hackerweb/ I've been using it for more than a year now and I nearly never visit it Hacker News directly on mobile.

Have a look at this too - http://hn.premii.com/

There is also an Android app by this premii person, and it re-directs all links through its own domain. Very annoying and actually borderline malicious.

I've been using the Android app by Manuel Maly for a while and can recommend it. It's available on FDroid: https://f-droid.org/repository/browse/?fdfilter=HN&fdid=com.... or Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.manuelmaly...

Speaking of Android, after looking through the available apps I decided to release my own as open source. It's lightweight and has a focus on usability, check it out :)


I'm counting at least 12 HN apps on Google Play. What does your own has that the others don't?

Trust me I've tried them all, and I still felt that I needed to develop my own out of necessity. I'm studying interaction design, so something which is usable is really important to me.

I would argue that every app I used had minor issues which evolved into major issues over time. Poor visual design, visibility and readabilty, too cluttered or unintuitive, etc. I set out for the app to do one thing, and excel at it without issues.

Two suggestions: infinite scroll down to get more stories, pull down to refresh the feed.

I use http://cheeaun.github.io/hackerweb/

Some time ago Hackernews was mobile ready for a short time, there were a lot of complaints (I can't find the thread at the moment). I guess the HN philosophy is to keep it as basic and simple as possible and leave the rest to 3rd parties.

I miss easy navigation features of a desktop browser when opening HN website in mobile browsers.

My flow is - I go through the submissions in a page, and when I like one, most of the time I open the story and its comments page both - in separate tabs. I read the story first and the switch to the next tab to read the comments. When I have completed all the tabs, I go to the next HN page. In mobile it's pretty cumbersome to navigate among tabs.

I seldom use the mobile site, I find the HN reader app by premii[1] the best suited for me.

[1] https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.premii.hn

http://ihackernews.com/ is a suitable alternative that's mobile friendly.

with a few css media query rules it would be usable. I always wonder the same.

Anytime they try to make changes there are hundreds of complaints about those changes.

Many people on mobile only want a bit more separation between the vote buttons. That would make accidental downvotes harder, and would encourage upvoting.

Personally, I'd like text that was a bit larger and text that reflowed, but I know other people might hate that.

I wonder if mobile web is really ready. I think on mobile, people prefer the fullness that comes with native apps, including UI features like back/undo on Android, which is maybe why 37 Signals, once a staunch advocate of mobile web apps, decided to release native versions of their app after a few years. In default mobile browsers, the back button is not the same thing as "undo" in Android.

I'd be happy to help with this, and I'm surely not the only one. Then again, I'm sure that lack of bandwidth isn't the reason.

One change that could be made is to wrap very long unbroken lines.

Visiting /comments when someone has left a post with a very long unbroken line will break the site.

Browsers are oddly broken for mobile. Here's what text entry looks like on Chrome for iOS - http://imgur.com/gjLdS6A

The change should be done in the browser. It's just dumb that we don't have reflow in Firefox mobile. Chrome seems to do it fine (but lack of adblock makes it my non default browser).

News.yc is a simple, easy site. Browsers should just work on it.

Making a one-column text-only website work on mobile is trivial with a meta tag and a few lines of CSS.

There are two columns: one for the text and one for the vote buttons. Does that affect your version?

(What are those few lines of CSS btw?)

On such a simple site it's enough to set max-width on the whole body and maybe adjust a few elements such as the comment input box.

These max-widths etc. can be different based on available screen width: https://css-tricks.com/css-media-queries/

The meta tag can be used to set viewport width to device screen width. Without it, the mobile browser doesn't know what minimum screen width the webpage requires, so it assumes 800px (or 1024px), because rendering a random website with viewport width of 240px is not a good idea even in 2015.

My point is, browsers should be doing what the website code tells them to do. Websites that display nicely on desktop computers usually display fairly nicely on mobile as well. But HN shows 20-30 words per line on desktop, which is... suboptimal for readability, so it's only expected that mobile browsers produce similar results.

I'm not sure about HN's reason, but I've found the Boreal app for iOS to be a great responsive solution for reading HN. The dev's are responsive and their app has me here more often now because of it.

Hacker News(YC) is a fully featured free app for iOS. It allows for commenting, upvoting and submitting news. Not sure about Android though. Not sure what %age of junta use the web version on mobile?

If you're on iOS and want an app I would suggest Akepa. Amazing app.

There is a ton of HN apps on Android, but all I want is the ability to post comments, post stories, and possibly support the Android share API so I can just send URLs to HN directly from Chrome.

"Yarn for Hacker News" can both comment and post from Android devices. And using the browser share bottun, you can post stories to HN. Also can open comment links from other apps. It's very useful, but only hope it would be able to change font size. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=au.com.timmutt...

I have installed UC Browser on my android just for HN. Double tap for zoom and the text adjusts to the width.

Older versions of android stock browser used to act this way, but latest chrome on android does not.

There's a few mobile-friendly versions of Hacker News, using the API. I prefer http://hn.premii.com

Thanks for the boreal reference. Finally an app that can actually login an post comments. Beautiful app so far. Though I can't find the reply to comment option.

My bad, found it. Swipe left on a comment to reply. Nice.

I asked a long time ago about open-sourcing the front-end, and was brushed off. It'd get done a lot faster if you allowed experienced users to help.

HN is written in an obscure variant of Lisp, perhaps that is the problem? There's been practically zero development since the site was created.

Because its not made for mobile? It demands we sit at our Desktops and Start workstation and explore!

Responsive design to adjust column width might be useful.

there's (at least one) great app.

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