There are many creative uses for the iPhone, many of them utterly useless. On the other hand, there are times when a web site optimized for mobile devices could be quite useful.
During alumni reunions for example.
- increasing costs (nearly $10,000) to print 9,500 brochures, listing reunion events and activities, and
- the large fraction of alumni carrying electronic devices (like iPhones, iPod Touches, and browser-enabled "smart phones").
Between 22 May and 31 May there were:
- 4,170 visits to the mobile site
- 1,590 unique visitors
- 15,368 page views
- Reunions Mobile worked well enough to serve as a primary source of information about Reunions for users of iPhones and other higher-end mobile devices.
- Others visited to check things out, but used the traditional printed schedule in the end. "This is pretty much what we expected, both in the abstract and after testing the site on a number of different devices," says Gossen.
- He adds, "As smartphones garner a larger share of the market, sites like Reunions Mobile will become an increasingly realistic alternative to, or replacement for, printed brochures and schedules."
Well worth the time and effort. For alumni interested in this type of technology, the added value went beyond the utility of being able to access the info on their smartphones. They were also really happy to see that Reunions is evolving in response to changes in the broader social and technological environment. We're signaling that we love and honor our traditions, but we're not bound or blinded by them.
OK, the time and effort were worth it. What about the cost? Princeton spent "approximately $7,000" to build, test and roll out the site.
In a final, poetic twist, 2009 is the 150th anniversary of class-year reunions at Princeton. Gossen again: "We didn't plan Reunions Mobile to coincide with this anniversary, but launching it this year illustrated the potential for interplay between the old and the new."
As of this posting, the 2009 site was up and running at http://m.princeton.edu/reunions/
[Updated 2 July: There are native iPhone apps for schools and colleges from MobilEdu]
* For readers who are technically inclined, Princeton web developers describe the Reunions Mobile site as "a website developed for mobile browsers, with special attention paid to the iPhone and Android platforms."