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Web Design & Development Guide

Mobile Web

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Pocket Internet Explorer displaying the Wikipedia main page on a PDA
Pocket Internet Explorer displaying the Wikipedia main page on a PDA
Opera Mini displaying the Wikipedia portal
Opera Mini displaying the Wikipedia portal

The Mobile Web refers to the World Wide Web as accessed from mobile devices such as cell phones, PDAs, and other portable gadgets connected to a public network. Access does not require a desktop computer.

Today, many more people have access to mobile devices than a desktop computer.

However, Mobile Web access today still suffers from interoperability and usability problems. This is partly due to the small physical size of the screens of mobile devices and partly due to the incompatibility of many mobile devices with not only computer operating systems, but also the format of much of the information available on the Internet.

Standards

The development of standards is one approach being implemented to improve the interoperability, usability, and accessibility issues surrounding mobile web usage.

The W3C Mobile Web Initiative is a new initiative set up by the W3C to develop best practices and technologies relevant to the Mobile Web. The goal of the initiative is to make browsing the Web from mobile devices more reliable and accessible. The main aim is to evolve standards of data formats from Internet providers that are tailored to the specifications of particular mobile devices. The W3C has published guidelines (Best Practices, Best Practices Checker Software Tool) for mobile content, and is actively addressing the problem of device diversity by establishing a technology to support a repository of Device Descriptions.

W3C is also developing a validating schema to assess the readiness of content for the mobile web, through its mobileOK Scheme, which will help content developers to quickly determine if their content is web-ready. The W3C guidelines and mobile OK approach have not been immune from criticism and an alternative set of guidelines has been made available. This puts the emphasis on Adaptation, which is now seen as the key process in achieving the Ubiquitous Web, when combined with a Device Description Repository. An alternative approach is to adopt a Multi-Web Practice whereby for a given theme a set of URIs for different devices are developed with each URI having content appropriate to its designated device. A bookmark for this set of URIs held in an array is known as an AGI (Array of Graphic Identifiers)

mTLD, the registry for .mobi, has released a free testing tool called the MobiReady Report to analyze the mobile readiness of website. It does a free page analysis and gives a Mobi Ready score. This report tests the mobile-readiness of the site using industry best practices & standards.

Other standards for the mobile web are being documented and explored for particular applications by interested industry groups, such as the use of the mobile web for the purpose of education and training e.g. Standards for M-Learning Project.

Development

Evolution of mobile web standards
Evolution of mobile web standards

The Mobile Web primarily utilises lightweight pages written in Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) or Wireless Markup Language (WML) to deliver content to mobile devices.

New tools such as Macromedia's Flash Lite or Sun's J2ME enable the production of user interfaces customized for mobile devices. In any case, with the increasing movement away from website-based content towards delivery via RSS, Atom and other formats in which content is divorced from presentation, the issue of microcontent becomes less of a problem as the device rather than the content-provider is enabled to specify how the content is displayed.

Top-level Domain

The .mobi sponsored top-level domain was launched specifically for the mobile internet by a consortium of companies including Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, and Vodafone. By forcing sites to comply with mobile web standards, .mobi ensures visitors a consistent and optimized experience on their mobile device.

Mobile Web 2.0

An example Web 2.0 technology used on the mobile web is the blog, resulting in the term moblog. Critics point to the difficulties of transferring Web 2.0 concepts such as open standards to the mobile web. On the other hand, advocates present it as a means of pushing information up onto the web in addition to bringing information down to the user.[1]

Faxing via Mobile Web

With the advancement of internet faxing, faxes are being sent online. Furthermore, they can be sent and received through Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs).

Advertising on the Mobile Web

Advertisers are increasingly using the mobile Web as platform to reach consumers. A recent study by the Online Publishers Association [2] reports that about one-in-ten mobile Web users said they have made a purchase based on a mobile Web ad, while 23% said they have visited a Web site, 13% said they have requested more information about a product or service and 11% said they have gone to a store to check out a product.

References

This article was originally created and edited using the Web on mobile devices.

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