Are you looking ahead to build a mobile website? May be you need to first evaluate whether you really need a mobile version of your site. If you have concluded that you really need one, read the rmaining of this post.
‘Building Mobile Friendly Websites’ was one topic presented at the India SearchMasters conference at Google India on 28th of Feb 2009. Presenter Ankit Gupta from Google gave a very good insight to this topic, which made me digg a bit deeper into this subject. Thats why this post !
Why you need to build a website for Mobile devices?
When I write this post, I am parallely logged in to GMail from my SonyEricsson’s Opera Mini browser! Well I am not the only one who use internet on mobile, there are many people who use internet on mobile. If you think you are in India and it would cost a lot to use internet on mobile, you are wrong. I am paying just INR 99 to my operator Airtel per month to use unlimited internet time on mobile!
People use internet on mobile phones for various purposes, to check email, check stock quotes, browse websites, find a location on maps on mobile etc. You can even book rail tickets in india through mobile ! (Thanks to IRCTC’s java mobile app).
Mobile is a very tiny device which people can carry effortlessly, so adding internet on mobile can make people more comfortable while on the move, and they do browse websites on the move.
Suppose they know your website and they are regular visitors to your websites from a desktop/laptop, but while on the move, dont you think that they might visit your site on mobile? And dont you think that you need to pay attention to these visitors from mobile, when the numbers of these mobile internet users are growing worldwide?
Okay.. If you are convinced about the need to make your website mobile friendly, I have put in some information for you. Read on..
Is a mobile website different from a normal website?
I would like to post some myths and explanations here first
- Mobile websites use .mobi extension -
.Mobi is just another domain extension.
- Mobile websites are built on another domain, separate from the main site – This isn’t necessary, you can run mobile websites on the same domain using some server tricks or on a subdomain
Why a Mobile website is different from a main website?
Mobile phones are getting smarter and smarter every day, but still there are few limitations of a mobile browser
- Screen Size – This is a major limitation on a mobile website, you can’t fit a normal webpage on a mobile browser.
- WAP/XHTML compliance – Initial mobile browsers render only WAP pages, new mobile phones do render HTML/XHTML content.
Putting Everything Together
Its very difficult to build a single website which run well on any browsers, as a developer one would have experienced the difficulty to make a cross browser compatible website.
Building a Mobile Website
How to make it possible?
For making an effective mobile website, one need a right mix of both server technologies as well as front end technologies such as HTML, CSS, JavScript etc.
On the presentation side, one has to build web pages which is very lightweight. It takes time to load on a mobile device with a slow connection, hence one has to be very careful not to add too much of decorations to the page and increase the size.
As the mobile devices have lesser screen size, we need to add content blocks vertically than horizontally. The traditional left navigation, content, right navigation will not work good for mobile phones and it would be an extra burden for the user to use the horizontal scroll to see content hidden on the right navigation.
Stick with a validated HTML code, it helps the browser to render the page properly.
As I told server side libraries, dont panic that you need to create them your own, there are something like WURFL to make your job easier. Check out http://wurfl.sourceforge.net
When someone types www.yourdomain.com from a mobile device !
As I explained earlier, a mobile website need not necessarily be hosted on anoter domain. In this case, when someone types yourdomain.com from a mobile browser, you can use the WURFL library to identify the browser and redirect the visitor to a mobile friendly page at m.yourdomain.com, or even you can show a mobile friendly page on the same URL without redirecting the visitor. I would prefer the second option, than using a different subdomain for mobile. Rest of the action continues on the mobile page. Optionally you can add an option to the visitor to switch back and forth between the mobile version and the standard website – this is again preferred.
This post is an attempt to clarify the doubts others raised when I was at the Indian Search Masters 2009 at Google India Bangalore. Please leave your valuable feedbacks and queries here, that would help me enhance this content better ! Thanks!