Mobile Web Development – Designing & Developing

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Mobile development is less about the device and more about you. Your desktop personal computer (PC), while relatively compact, is not really mobile. Your laptop, while mobile relative to a desktop, retains the same basic physical requirements as a desktop: horizontal surface, room for keyboard and screen, the use of two hands, etc. Your mobile device, however, represents a singularity in the evolution of portable personal computing. You are no longer restricted to a limited set of movements and positions – not to mention the use of two hands – in order to interact with your device. In essence, the truly mobile device is an extension of you and not visa-versa.

What is the Mobile Web?

By worldwide numbers, mobile devices outnumber computers 20-1. Granted, not every phone has the capability to access the Web, but the turnover rate for mobile phones is higher than the turn over rate for desktop devices. With the revolutionary ubiquity of mobile devices in mind, it is important that we arrive at a common understanding of what is meant by the “mobile web.” While there may be a compelling case for including such protocols and standards as SMS, SMTP, and IM in our definition of “mobile web,” for the purposes of this article I will define the “mobile web” as the subset of HTTP content that has been optimized for, and/or is accessible with, a mobile device.

The Mobile Web is thus lighter than its immediate ancestor because of the many technical limitations of the underlying technology. When we use a desktop PC to access the Internet, we connect via Ethernet over a land-line that has a robust infrastructure (in most countries.) If, however, we use Wifi instead of Ethernet – even in our own homes and even on the same desktop PC – we introduce new complexities into the equation. Now we need to establish a connection to the Wifi point, which is connected to a router, which is connected to the Ethernet, etc.

When we examine the technical hurdles faced by a mobile device in connecting to the very same reservoir of data as a desktop or laptop PC, we are quickly struck by the nearly miraculous nature of the connection. The mobile phone must first connect over a less powerful network (be it an older, slower GPRS, or perhaps via a newer, faster G3 or EDGE connection,) and once the connection has been achieved, it must be sustained through a nearly balletic transference of the call from cell-tower to cell-tower as the user moves through the coverage matrix of a given carrier. As a result, mobile devices are severely limited in terms of bandwidth. Furthermore, the miniaturized view-port adds yet another restriction on the data that may be accessed by a mobile device.

Audience Is The KEY!

When designing any product, website or not, knowing your audience is key. What do they want? Someone browsing your mobile site has very different needs and expectations from a desktop customer. Mobile users are limited by their device and are not, for example, accessing your site in order to download a large PDF or browse videos by their favorite band. So what, then, are the core motivations that would bring someone to your mobile site? Fortunately Google has been focusing on this question for quite some time and their research has revealed that there are three primary types of mobile user.
The more you want to go deep in the world of mobile website development, the more you will explore new ideas and concepts. Apply those ideas in your mobile web development projects and create something new and interesting.

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