Mobile Web Kerfuffle

It’s been an exciting week in the blogosphere for the Mobile Web. First Barbara Ballard posts part 1 of an article on “What’s Wrong with the Mobile Web.” This is followed up on by both Andrea Trassati and Mike Rowehl and then Tom Hume picks up on those posts. With so many respected individuals piping up on this issue, I could hardly have stayed out of the fray…

Actually, I’ve been saying for some time what Barbara essentially is saying in her post: mobile-specific user experience is essential the growth of the Web on the mobile platform. My vision of the “One Web,” however, encompasses this idea through the notion of (ta da) “thematic consistency,” which has been articulated nicely by the Mobile Web Best Practices working group. Thematic consistency does not mean you have to have the same page displayed across different devices — it allows for different user experience across different devices but asserts that the same URI when viewed on different devices should provide thematically similar results (for example, the same news article or blog post).

So — even though I hold Barbara in very high regard, I disagree with the articulation of the “two camps.” From my perspective, the two camps might be closer to “the browser can do it all” vs. “the content authors need to do something too.” Clearly, I’m in the second camp: Web sites need to start factoring in Mobile users when they design and build their services, not as an after-thought. I think this is already happening. Take a look at PinPPL — here’s a site that’s designed to work well on the Blackberry browser and on desktop browsers. The site itself, a social network for Blackberry users, also exploits device capabilities by providing direct access to Blackberry PIN messaging from user profiles.

By the way, Barbara will be speaking at the next Mobile Monday London event here on October 2nd. Don’t miss it!

Meanwhile, BBC News ran a great article on the rise of the Mobile Web. I think this article does a great job of capturing the user attitude towards the mobile Web: they just want it to work. (This article also reinforces my view that cost transparency is a key issue when it comes to take up.)

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1 Comment on “Mobile Web Kerfuffle

  1. I am completely for One Web, there’s just no other way, IMO.

    The definition there is: The Internet is the Internet, and sites should run well on all devices. Optimization should be based on CSS and device detection, but should not change site function or content beyond the necessary.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. Dan, as you pointed out, pinppl exploits the BB browser’s PIN number detection capability. And in terms of device detection, pinppl easily detects the BlackBerry series number, and it uses this to display, and not display information where absolutely necessary. (For instance, the BlackBerry browser cannot handle file uploads, so pinppl will not display this form element.)

    The underlying XHTML markup remains unchanged regardless of which Web browser is being used, be it on the BlackBerry, or PC.

    This is the beauty of well-structured markup, independent of visual elements – CSS handles that end, and does so wonderfully.

    There are few mobile devices now that cannot handle basic XHTML. The reason for this being that users want to use, what they consider the “real” Internet – not mobile specific sites, of which there are very few in comparison.

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