Apologies to Russell at Mobhappy for stealing his headline, although this post is about one of his…
Russell points the way to what could potentially be an interesting article on mobile site development that is unfortunately hidden behind a registration wall (so I've not read it), but the gist of the article given by the headlines makes it appear to be interesting reading.
There's a couple of ways to do this. First, you can just re-purpose your website to make it visible on a handset. Sure, this is better than nothing, but it's the modern day equivalent sin of asking your IT department to create your website back in the day.
The right approach is really think through why people might be using their mobile handset to visit your site and try to cater for that in terms of usability. As an example, if you visit a train company or airline on the PC, the first things that hits you is the ticket booking facility as that's exactly what the majority of people want. But on a mobile website, the chances are much more likely that you need either travel directions or the latest timetable update.
This is a subject very close to my heart, as I spend most of my time at the moment developing the Pitch Mobile Social Network (think something like a cross between Myspace, Flikr, Youtube and MSN, designed to be used on your phone, but also fully accessible from the web) which means I spend a lot of my time neck-deep in WML, ensuring the site works on as many phones as possible.
What is interesting is some of the headlines from Rich Holdsworth's article (the one behind the reg wall), which is basically a set of rules I apply across the board:
It has to work on all devices.
This is fun, especially when you get a stupidly popular phone like the Moto Razr V3 which has 10k of display memory (yes, 10k!), which means you need to make sure your page is smaller than 10k, or you lock out the Razr users.
White screens, black text and blue links are so 1998
But strict WML doesn't support colours at all, and if you want colours you need to start using XHMTL. And that's a whole new kettle of fish: XHTML Basic? Mobile? (and which version???) HTML 3.2? HTML 4.0? Openwave? WML 1.3? WML 2? What do you use, or do you dynamically switch based on device capabilities? (see below). The development effort in getting one version working is enormous, especially if you want high levels of interaction, so doing it dynamically based on device capabilities – and then testing them all – can get very very very time consuming.
It has got to be personal
The mobile screen's tiny, so get as much above the fold as possible :) Mind you, for me it;s easy as I'm developing a social network, so everything's automatically personal.
A WAP site is not a web site
Oh my no. Check out http://my.pitch.mobi/ versus http://www.pitch.mobi/. If you don't approach the development of each site with your target device in mind, you're in for a world of hurt.
Balance form and function
I'll leave this one.
Who says the mobile web has to be about these things? Yes, I provide, them, but that's because that's what the core business was. But the mobile is a platform in and of itself, so there's no reason not to use it as such – and the amount of traffic we get from people just chatting amongst themselves is astounding.
Do not expect the same results across every device
Would that it were so! That would make my life so much easier, and save me from having to test the site on dozens of different handsets, browsers and device emulators (and for the web site, multiple browsers under multiple operating systems too)
Test Test Test
And then get someone else to test it. Again.
You've got a lot of time to composite pages for delivery to phones, as the speed of delivery is limited, so use a couple of extra cycles to add some changing content. Personalise, and since it's relatively easy to identify the user by their mobile number (assuming you have a good WAP gateway provide), you always know who is browsing your site.
Make it worthwhile as visitors won't come back without getting value
It's like the web, but you need to be much much stickier on WAP, as the barriers to entry (getting on your site in the first place) can be incredibly high, especially when carriers deliver brand new phones to people without WAP settings configured…
If your users are going to all the trouble to visit your site, give them something to make them come back! Give them a reason to return, be it a personalised page, a chat service, something compelling.
Anyone else have comments? Leave them here or over on Mobhappy.
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