Monday, May 14, 2012

Comics Software: Solving Problems with mobile

This weekend I braved a veritable stampede of geeks as they -- okay, WE -- scrounged and scavenged through the poly-bagged and preserved history of our collective youths. In other words, there was a 50% off sale on back issues at my local comic book store and I was there trying to fill in some holes in my Defenders collection, and perhaps nab a few other goodies.

In the old days, I would have come in with a want list on paper to make sure I didn't buy any duplicates. But this time I felt ready because I had updated my info on my Comic Collector account and could view it through the Synch-n-Share feature that's now provided with the software.

Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way.

I have a Droid Razr, which is a pretty darned good smart phone. Most of the time it does a great job surfing the Internet and displaying the pages I need to visit. Considering that the Website hosting my comics is relatively simple, I didn't expectthe problems I was going to encounter. The problem is, the site is not very usable on a smart phone because the series listing uses a custom control that does not render on the Droid's browser.

Here's what it looks like on my PC:

Click on image to see full sized.
The title-selection tool is designed to float up and down as you scroll the page, meaning that you can always see it. This works well on the PC, but not at all on my smart phone. Without the ability to scroll up and down, I couldn't find the Defenders in the list.

Click on image to see full sized.
No problem, I thought, I'll just search for the title with the site's search command. That did find the series, but listed the issues in a random order that I couldn't change. Also, it only returns 100 issues. Since I have 125 issues, this mean that a big chunk of my collection was missing. Mostly, though, it was the random order that bugged me so much. They came back in this order: 45, 78, 55, 88, 152, 72, 81, 131, 34, 142, 56, etc.

I picked this up this weekend.
Normally, you would be able to click on a column header to resort the material in that column, but that doesn't work here.

Bedrock City Comics didn't have a lot of early Defenders to choose from, so checking their stock against my collection was very tedious and I had to do it twice to make sure that I wasn't buying duplicates of #39 and #40. And, of course, I had to trust my memory because I couldn't see 25 of the titles that I already had.

I got lucky, by the way, and did not have those two issues. I picked them up for $$2.50 and $1.50, respectively (gotta love that 50% off!).

So now I'm only missing 22 issues of this series, and I will continue to track them down at my leisure (yeah, if I were really gung ho on these issues I could finish it in a week on ebay or just by driving around town, but I'm in no hurry).

User Error, Not Software Error
Needless to say, I was frustrated by the entire experience because this software was supposed to make my life a lot easier while shopping for used comics. I knew there was a smartphone app available (in fact, I already own it), but I don't like the idea of filling my phone up with a lot of screenshots and comic book data. I have unlimited data streaming and would much rather keep my stuff "in the cloud" than on my physical device.

So I came home and started poking around the various settings in the software to see if I could change sort orders or anything else that would help solve this problem, and then I found it. A separate link for mobile devices to access the Website.

Mobile Link:
mobile title listings
Ugh. This link solved my problems by loading a lean, mean Web page that listed ALL the titles I own in one long list.

It's not fancy, but I can quickly scroll down to see the Defenders (yup, it's highlighted in red to the left). This mobile site will work on any browser, so click on the link if you'd like to see my collection through that interface.

If you do, you 'll see that it provides a good deal of detail, but it doesn't let you expand on the size of the teeny-tiny little cover thumbnail. The one in this example is only 77 x 110 pixels, which is pretty darned small. If you need more detail than that, you're out of luck.

Of course, if you're looking at details like cover price or other minor details, you can always go back to the full site and search for that specific issue (if you can find it, of course -- because the search box only returns the title -- you cannot search for a specific issue: That is to say, searching for "Defenders 39" (with or without quotes) will return all the Defenders titles, in that bad, random order that I showed you above.
mobile detail screen

Concluding my Mobile Woes
Now that I have both of my collection pages bookmarked in my phone, I think my comic book shopping troubles are over. The dream lives on that, with, I will soon be able to know what I've already got so I can go out and get what I want.

See you back here Wednesday for more Comics Talk

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