Providing better mobile browsing experience
(Been off for a while now on a vacation and other work. This is my first post after 10 days and concerns mobile internet experience.)One of my earlier posts covered the proliferation of mobile devices as the window to internet to an increasing number of people around the world. https://ronnie05.wordpress.com/2009/03/18/daily-addiction-mobile-internet/
This covered the stats and the emerging trends in mobile internet. As a mobile internet user, my experience with mobiles has been very frequent although the quality of experience is certainly not the best. Data transfer speeds in India are not all that great and 3G is still some way off. However, one other aspect where i face a problem in terms of usage experience of mobile internet, is page loading. This has to do with cookies, frames and other technical aspects which in general make a broadband experience great but a mobile experience relatively weak. Certain sections of pages dont load and this is especially true for commercial/business driven/business sites. Try booking a train/flight ticket from your mobile to experience the problems and hitches.
The question that i had posed to an open group of experts/commentators of Web 2.0 (a Linkedin group) was: How can websites be customized for a better mobile device based browsing experience?
I had a fairly wide range of answers, which i am documenting in this blog post in the form of views. It is necessary to realise that these views may not be mutually exclusive thoughts, in fact, they are quite inter-related to each other at various parts of the delivery chain.
1. View 1: The most popular answer (referred by Lee Curtis / George Lehman /Rachin Kapoor) that emerged from a web developers perspective was the use of CSS styled xHTML, a tool that semantically describes presentation lay outs separately from the content. CSS is useful in presenting the fully loaded site on a lap top/desk top, where as the HTML presents a small aand effective, quick loading and light mechanism for mobile phones. Thus the accessibility features are customised according to the screen and the device and streamlines site indexing more effectively.
(View 1 extended by Kabari Hendrick/ Nial Kennedy) While websites use the CSS/xHTML tools, user agent determination techniques travel from the cloud/net to the access window and determine the agent and direct the CSS/xHTML for suitability of the download (in terms of Lite or Heavy). This happens within a very short interval and doesnot extend the download time significantly.
2. View 2: While view 1, is about back end web site compatibility with device, the second view (by Andy Foote and Vincent Graux), is about how hardware evolution is taking care of the fundamental resstiction of a small screen, by creating larger and richer interfaces. The case in point being netbooks, which were born out of the fusion of browsing experience and mobility.
The analogy here is creation of a bridge across a chasm. One side (devices) is starting to build smaller and mobility centric devices to bridge the chasm. The other side (website / internet / programming) is trying to do the same by customizing the presentation formats on the websites.
View 3: While the earlier views were hardware and software based, this view, forwarded by Jim Vezina , Poorna Kedar and Gianluiggi Cuccureddu is business focussed and thus the most relevant. This advocates, the understanding of web traffic i.e the reason why people would visit some website. Thus having identified the raison d’ etre of the website, the experience has to be tailored. For example a website, which is e-commerce led, should see to it that the payment portals are easy to load and secure and provide the relevant user experience without getting into elaborate frames and pages etc as far as a mobile experience is concerned. A lap top experience can be the full monty as it is. A mailing site, needs to see to it that the mobile experience includes written text content provided to the user without too many buttons, frames and others. A social networking site probably needs to go a little bit more in terms of pictures and videos and nothing else. This can be done through the standard View 1 and View 2 tools as described earlier. Or further yet, if required, have two different web sites, one for regular users and the other for mobile users if your traffic is so profiled ( Rick Dane)!