Topic14 essay


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14. To further enhance the transparency of the planning system and to facilitate a wider dissemination of statutory planning information to the public, a mobile version of the Town Planning Board (TPB)'s website was recently launched. As a GIT consultant, you are instructed by the TPB to review this newly launched mobile version of TPB homepage. Please critically review the strength and limitations of the technologies employed and suggest improvements in enhancing its GIT applications.

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Topic14 essay

  1. 1. THE HONG KONG POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY DEPARTMENT OF LAND SURVEYING AND GEO-INFORMATICS LSGI4321 Individual Essay Cheung Ka Ho (10601022D) 11/19/2011 Topic: To further enhance the transparency of the planning system and to facilitate a widerdissemination of statutory planning information to the public, a mobile version of the TownPlanning Board (TPB)s website was recently launched. As a GIT consultant, you areinstructed by the TPB to review this newly launched mobile version of TPB homepage.Please critically review the strength and limitations of the technologies employed andsuggest improvements in enhancing its GIT applications.
  2. 2. IntroductionRecently, the use of smartphone and mobile devices has become very popular since2007, when iPhone was released to public by Apple. It makes the web becomemore accessible and in 2008 mobile access to the Internet exceeded desktopcomputer-based access for the first time(International Telecommunications Union,2009). Due to the great demand of mobile internet access, mobile web becomemore and more important for extending the market of merchants and establishingpublic services. As a result, the Town Planning Board, (TPB) has developed a newdesigned website for mobile phone access so as to promote and provide a moreconvenient way for public engagement. In this essay, the strengths and limitationsof mobile web will be discussed and improvements of the mobile web of TPB willalso be discussed.Background of Mobile WebThe mobile web refers to the use of Internet-connected applications, orbrowser-based access to the Internet from a mobile device, such as a smartphone, ortablet computer, connected to a wireless network.Traditionally, access to the Web has been via fixed-line services, which are used bydesktop computers. They are not portable and users have to sit in front of thecomputers in order to have Internet surfing. Although notebook computers areinvented and become easy to carry to outdoors, they are still inconvenient to carrybecause of their non-pocket size.In 2007, the release of iPhone and Android phone made a tremendous change ofinternet surfing habits of people. The Web is becoming more accessible by portableand wireless devices. As shown in Figure 1, it shows the total data consumed in TBby users worldwide who use Opera Mini, which is an internet browser application onsmartphones. The shift to mobile Web access has been accelerating with the risesince 2007 of larger multi-touch smartphones, and of multi-touch tablet computerssince 2010 (Figure 2). Both platforms provide better Internet access and browser- orapplication-based user Web experiences than previous generations of mobile deviceshave done.
  3. 3. Figure 1– Total data consumed by Opera Mini users worldwide in TB (Kozuch, 2009) Figure 2– Smartphones and Tablet computersStrengths of mobile webThere are quite a number of strengths the mobile web has so that it become moreand more popular nowadays.Improved user experienceMobile websites are specifically designed for handheld devices. Nobody wants tobrowse a desktop website on their tiny small-screened smartphone. According to J.
  4. 4. Nielsen in 2011, a research was done by him on mobile website suability showedthat mobile-optimized websites improve user experience and satisfaction.Faster download speedMobile websites are specifically designed for mobile standards and optimaldownload speed. A mobile web design is small and targeted, which means lesswaiting and more browsing.Engagement and contextA mobile website allows to immediately engage users with mobile-specific features.It enables services to take advantage of mobile device capabilities such as clicking ona phone number to call it or add it to the device address book. It can providelocation-sensitive content. Location technologies can enable location-sensitiveinformation be provided to a user. This can reduce the steps required for the user toreach useful content, and so makes it accessible with the least amount of effort.More flexible and cost-effective than app developmentA mobile website is generally a much less restrictive means to build a mobilepresence compared to app development. For one thing, app development requiresthe production of different apps for different platforms such as iPhone, Android andBlackberry.It needs to submit to an app store, making apps much more fragmentedand expensive to produce with a longer timeline before they reach target visitors.Most importantly, an app requires users to download the app before it can beaccessed. On the other hand, a mobile website is universal to all contemporarysmartphone browsers, making a mobile website more flexible and cost efficient, withfewer barriers to target users.InevitabilityThe mobile web is no longer a concept.It is a mainstream reality that will impact anyorganization that aims to communicate with target audiences online. Most leadingindustry analysts project that within a few short years, mobile phones will overtakePCs as the most common Web access device worldwide. The responsibility now fallson website owners to take advantage of the unique opportunities mobile offers forconnecting with the growing number of visitors who will inevitably access theirwebsite on mobile devices.
  5. 5. Limitations of Mobile WebAlthough mobile web does have some advantages to attract people to use themobile service and let them obtain information anywhere, it has several limitations.Small screen size of mobile deviceSmartphones usually have smaller screen size than desktop computers. The largestscreen size of smartphones in the world is only 5 inches, several times smaller thandesktop or laptop computers. This makes it difficult or impossible to see text andgraphics dependent on the standard size of a desktop computer screen.Lack of windowsOn a desktop computer, the ability to open more than one window at a time allowsfor multi-tasking. Historically on mobile web, only one page can be displayed at atime, and pages can only be viewed in the sequence they were originallyaccessed.Even now there are some browsers providing multi-tasking, it allowsmultiple tabs, but sometimes a limited number, and not multiple windows in thesame screen.NavigationMost mobile devices do not use a mouse-like pointer, but rather simply an up anddown function for scrolling. This limits the flexibility in navigating the wholewebsite.Broken pagesOn many mobile devices, a single page as viewed on a desktop is broken intosegments, which are each treated as a separate page. Paired with the slow speedof mobile devices, navigation between these pages is slow.Inconsistent of different mobile web browsersThe developer must make sure the phone works on all browsers. As there aredifferent brands of mobile web browsers using different engines in the market, thedeveloper must constantly test the mobile application in each of these after anupdate to make sure the web service continues to work correctly. The costs thenincrease for doing browsers compatibility testing.
  6. 6. Current situation and current design of the mobile website ofTPBThe TPB has just established the mobile version of its website. It provides anopportunity for the public to access to TPB by using mobile devices such assmartphones. However, there are some limitations in the mobile version website.Text only interfaceAs shown in Error! Reference source not found., it shows that text only interface ofthe homepage. Text only implies simple design but less attractive to the public.Users most likely want to have a well-designed website to surf, especially for thosecompanies or organizations that are well-known.No iconic linksIn Error! Reference source not found., the main content is the menu that let publicto link for further information. The menu consist of text only links instead of iconiclinks. Mobile phone users often think that clicking on an icon is much easier than toclick on a text link because they are just using their fingers for web navigation. It isdifficult for a person to tab on a link on the small and tiny screen of his phone.No searching functionAs shown in Error! Reference source not found., it shows the Press Release page ofthe mobile version website. It displays all the released press information from themost updated release back to several years ago which created a very long list ofhyper-links. There is no searching function for public choose to search for releasedpress. Public users actually cannot easily get the information they may want toknow from released press as they cannot easily find the related information. Notonly the page of Press Release does not provide the searching function, the wholemobile version website does not offer a searching function for public to search foruseful information they need.Some documents are computer-typed formatAs shown in Figure 5, it shows the page of Latest Agenda of mobile version website.It provides links for public to download the agenda addressed by TPB each week.However, the agendas are in PDF format, which is a computer-typed format and it isnot fully-supported for all browsers or mobile devices. Besides, users have todownload the PDF instead of just using web browsers to surf. They have to useanother software application in order to open the PDF file. It is not user-friendly forusers to get the information they need.
  7. 7. Figure 3– Homepage of TPB mobile Figure 4– Press Release of TPB Figure 5–Latest Agenda of TPB version website mobile version website mobile version websiteOverseas examplesThere are oversea examples that can help to improve the design and the functions ofthe TPB mobile version website. These examples are served as references todemonstrate how to implement and how to design a user-friendly mobile web.Example 1: Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), SingaporeGovernmentThe first example is from the Urban Redevelopment Authority of the SingaporeGovernment, which is a department for urban planning and urban renewal, similar tothe Planning Department of Hong Kong Government.As shown in Figure 6, it shows the homepage of URA mobile version website. It isthe graphical layout design instead of text-only design which is professional andattractive. The links are iconic and are very like iPhone icons. It uses large iconswith text description for each link for easy navigation. Users who use smart phones
  8. 8. are familiar with this design as most of the applications in smartphones are designedas this type of layout. On the other hand, it provides useful enquiry tools for publicto search for databases and locations. The enquiry tools let users get informationthey need conveniently. Also, the mobile website allows public to subscribe usingRSS. It let the public track for the updated news easily.As shown in Figure 7, it shows the feedback page of URA mobile version website. Itis an online feedback form to let the public give comments to URA online using smartphones. URA can aggregate and manage comments from public more easily usingthe online feedback form system.Figure 6– Homepage of URA, Singapore Gov’t Figure 7– Feedback form of URA, Singapore Gov’t
  9. 9. Example 2: South Ayrshire Council, UKThe second example is form a mobile website of a city council in the United Kingdom.It provides a mobile web map services for the public to search for planningapplications.As shown in Figure 8, public can search for archaeological sites and heritage via themobile web. User can also search for planning application via the mobile web(Figure 9). It can automatically capture user’s GPS location from the mobile devicefor searching archaeological and heritage sites near users. The searching results aredisplayed on a web map and let the users understand where the sites actually areand their detail information, which is shown in Figure 10.This mobile website is designed with iPhoneicon-like layout, which has large buttons,icons and textboxes. It is very easy for users to navigate between webpages. Also,with the iPhone application like layout, users who use smart phones easily get usedto the interface.Figure 8– Heritage searching in Figure 9– Planning Application Figure 10– Online web map in mobilemobile web searching in mobile web web
  10. 10. Example 3: Department of Planning and Community Development, StateGovernment of Victoria, AustraliaThe third example is from the mobile web of the Department of Planning andCommunity Development in Australia. It is an online web application for the publicto search and view planning application in the whole city. It also let the public toview the detail report of each planning property in the city.As shown in Figure 11, it shows the homepage of the mobile web application site.It has clear and large icons for public to navigate to different webpage easily. Itprovides searching function to search planning application by map or text.In Figure 12, it shows that users can simply enter the locational information and thenthey can get the searching result of planning applications.Users can also view the planning property reports (Figure 13) of a site area or aplanning application to have further details about the site such as gross floor area,land use zoning and existing land use.In Figure 14, it shows that the application will automatically capture the current users’GPS location in order to search for nearby properties through the online map. Thesearching results will display on the map and let users know where the planningapplication are. Figure 11– Homepage of PlanningVIC Figure 12– Text search for planning applications
  11. 11. Figure 13– Planning property report Figure 14– Online web map for searching planning applicationsRecommendations to TPB mobile version websiteAfter reading and analyzing the overseas examples, the mobile version website ofTPB can have some improvements by applying the strengths and advantages thatlearnt from the overseas examples.Due to the small form factor of mobile phones, the website for mobile devicesneeded to be well designed. It includes simple layout for lowering the bandwidthcharges and compressed contents and pages. Only the time-critical informationthat the general public needs to know are displayed and the information should notbe too detailed. The layout can be designed like an iPhone application with largeicons, text, images, buttons and textboxes for easy access and navigation because thepublic who uses smartphones are familiar with this kind of layout design.Furthermore, the TPB mobile website may include some new contents such as waysfor public to participate plan-making, apply planning application and makecomments to those applications. An online feedback form can also be included inthe mobile website for public to give comments to TPB.On the other hand, a mobile version of the Statutory Planning Portal can be includedin the mobile website for general public query. Users can just search on an online
  12. 12. web map or using GPS location that captured from the mobile devices to search forthe Outline Zoning Plan and view the detail.ConclusionIn conclusion, as the mobile devices are becoming more and more popular, it isinevitable to establish better usability mobile web. The mobile web shouldwell-designed with large icons, text and buttons for users to navigate easily. On theother hand, as mobile web can access to the internal devices of a mobile phone suchas GPS receivers, phone book and internal map applications, the mobile web betteruse this information to improve the usability of the mobile website. Using GPSlocations for searching planning applications nearby helps the general public increasetheir engagement of planning application which happens nearby them. With theimprovement of TPB planning website, the percentage of public engagement mayimprove.ReferenceInternational Telecommunications Union, 2009. THE WORLD IN 2009: ICT FACTS ANDFIGURES, Switzerland: International Telecommunication Union.Nielsen, J., 2011. Mobile Usability Update. [Online]Available at:[Accessed 11 11 2011].