Mobile Web Site Information
users want content that helps them while on the go, such as
information that's relevant to their physical location. They want sites
that provide maps, sports scores, ring tones, movie times and locations,
nearby places, stock trading (for the frequent business traveler), weather
reports, the latest news, and city information. And, of course, they use
it for email. Telephia reports email, weather, and maps are the most often
accessed items on the mobile Web1. Because of the small screen, users want
snippets of content, which means that 500-word articles need trimmed down
to 30 words.
The Mobile Web
The mobile Web isn't the same thing as the Web. Instead, the mobile
carrier is the one that's often in control. Mobile providers can improve
the mobile experience by creating a design that doesn't have garbled
content or makes it tedious to use Web sites.
Should businesses bother with designing mobile-based sites? The market
seems to think so. Mobile browsers outnumber Web browsers by at least 20
times. Users in the UK downloaded over eight billion pages to their
Web-enabled devices in 20032 and analysts forecast global mobile content
sales to top $9 billion in the next 12 months3. Needless to say, there is
a lot of interest in using small screens for big revenues.
The primary challenge facing designers who work on products for the mobile
Web is finding ways to limit user input and lead consumers to where they
want to go, which isn't always the best experience. Network latency and
bandwidth issues can also add to the consumers' frustration. All of these
things must be taken into account when designing for mobile users.
Brian Fling provides 10 reasons to publish a mobile-based Web site, which
can serve as justification for getting businesses on board. According to
the four-part series, "Mobile Web Design," there are three times as many
mobile phones as PCs in the world and almost all of today's phones are
Web-enabled. If the Internet gets discovered tomorrow, wouldn't you rather
target mobile users than PCs considering there are more of them?
Designing for Mobility
"Methods to the Madness," compares four methods for going about designing
a mobile-based Web site, including creating handheld style sheets and
building a mobile-specific site. The article compares the methods and
explains which one to choose.
The handheld CSS style sheet method is the easier of the two methods to
develop for as it only calls for creating a separate style sheet with the
"handheld" media type. Before you run out to try it though, understand
that handheld style sheets don't work with every mobile device browser and
there are likely more browsers that are incompatible with them than are
compatible. Perhaps this will get resolved with W3C's Mobile Web
Initiative, which was formed to address ways to make the mobile Web as
easy-to-use as possible.
The second approach calls for designing specifically for mobile devices.
Pages are tailored to the mobile experience, providing content and
interactions suited to the limitations of the device. This means smaller
file sizes, faster downloads, and no wasted content or mark-up. On the
flip side, you'd essentially be maintaining two separate Web sites: the
little one and the big one.
A September 2005 Action Engine study on mobile usability reports that
usability is the number one reason people purchase a specific mobile
device. The same survey says that respondents ranked interest in news,
weather, travel, and directions over communications tools like email and
instant messenger. The most frustrating aspect reported in the
study—time-consuming data entry.4
Furthermore, Michael Quazza, chief executive at SurfKitchen, says that for
every click a user takes to access a service, 50 percent will abandon the
attempt.5 Between the study and Quazza's discovery, companies need to move
with a sense of urgency in building usable sites that have easy data entry
with as few clicks as possible and faster response times.
Making the Business Case
With statistics showing that the mobile Web is growing—and revenues right
along with it—the time and cost to invest in designing for the mobile
experience are justifiable.
ePayNews reports that in 2001, only 16 percent of all Internet users used
wireless to connect to the Internet. In 2004, that number reached 41.5
percent. Additionally, the US mobile commerce revenues have increased from
2.1 billion dollars in 2003 to 13.1 billion in 2005 with a projection of
58.4 billion in 20076. Imagine how much the number will grow if companies
design with the mobile experience in mind.
Mobile Web Browsing Gets WICD. W3C is working on new technology called Web
Interaction Compound Document, or WICD for short. The work group is
working to make it easier to create interactive content for mobile