Pitt launches mobile site

By Gwenn Barney

Pitt launched a mobile version of its website last week, delighting some… Pitt launched a mobile version of its website last week, delighting some students.

The site, m.pitt.edu, brings together several University resources — a campus events calendar, a campus map and Pitt’s Find People tool, to name a few — and presents them in a form compatible with most Web-capable phones.

“This gives you access to the University no matter where you are,” Brian Decima, a site architect for Pitt’s Computing Services and Systems Development, said.

The site, which does not have a “www” in front of its name, also has a list of Twitter feeds, including the official University account, Pitt Tweet; The Pitt News; Pitt CSSD and My Pitt. It also features a campus news link that has a collection of articles from five campus publications, including the Pitt Chronicle, the athletic department and others.

Senior Mark Meyers said he likes the campus map feature available on Pitt’s site. Last month, he paid $1 to get a Pitt campus map application on his iPod Touch. He said he liked the free one Pitt now offers better. The iPod Touch map only offered street names, while the Pitt map includes the locations of campus buildings, he said.

Junior Meghan Danielsons said the Pitt map feature helps her find “those obscure classes in buildings you’ve never seen before.” She’s also excited about the “Hours” link that the site provides for computing labs, libraries, dining halls, fitness facilities, bookstores and the Registrar’s Office.

“It’s definitely convenient to not have to pick up the phone and call to ask for that,” she said.

Both Meyers and Danielsons said they were disappointed the site doesn’t give them access to what CSSD calls “security services” — enrollment information and grades.

Jinx Walton, CSSD director, assures Pitt Mobile users that her department is working to add these features but that security services will not be available until they are safe to use. Walton said she did not have a timeframe for the project.

“This is really just phase one of the project,” Walton said of the mobile site that’s running now. “We’d like to have this as an ongoing basis. There are really an endless numbers of phases.”

Decima said CSSD workers are also working with Pitt transportation officials to develop an online shuttle schedule and with the University Library Systems to provide a library services link.

They are also trying to create versions for the University’s satellite campuses so that when students turn on their phones, Pitt Mobile will automatically recognize which regional campus they are are on.

Decima said his team would like to expand the sports section of the site, as well. It hopes to work with the University’s athletics department to include links for team rosters and sports video highlights. The website presently contains news and event updates for sports teams provided by the athletics department.

CSSD is currently looking for any suggestions students might have for other improvements to the site.

“We’d like to tailor this to fit students’ needs,” Decima said. “The more feedback we get from students, the more we can make it what you want it to be.”

Anyone can give feedback through the Pitt Mobile website, which can be accessed using computers as well as phones.

Decima and his team at CSSD began working on Pitt Mobile in December.

“I devoted pretty much all my time over the past couple months to get this together,” said Decima, who also said that he worked on the site during almost all of his 9-to-5 shifts. “Getting the information together was the hardest part.”

He and his co-workers modeled Pitt’s mobile site off the sites the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and West Virginia University use.