“As a general rule the web does not work very well on mobile devices at the moment, even though almost two-thirds of mobile devices are web capable,” Dominique Hazaël-Massieux of the W3C Mobile Web Initiative told the BCS-sponsored World Wide Web Conference last month.
On the plus side, such devices are becoming cheaper and the mobile web service is moving away from the “walled garden” approach taken by some service providers, who have limited what their customers can access.
In fact, in future we will see mobile-only web users, but only if future development work is centred around the user and not the technology, as it is now.
“Ultimately, the web will become an omnipresent service platform available on any device at any time,” said Daniel Appelquist, senior technology strategist at Vodafone. “In future all user experiences of this ‘service platform’ will differ, according to the individual users’ requirements.”
The essential need is for one web, which works consistently on all devices, which exploits device capabilities and can be easily tested on actual devices.
With this in mind, website designers should aim to use short URLs and navigation bars, balance navigation and access keys, and avoid the use of image maps, pop-ups, auto refresh and redirection.
In order to produce a mobile-friendly website designers should also avoid using externally linked resources, ensure the suitability of the content within a mobile context, use clear language, limit content to user request, limit scrolling to one direction, and use non–text alternatives where possible.
James Pearce, of the Device Description Working Group, highlighted the need for globally accessible and sustainable data and services, which provide device description information applicable to content adaptation. With this in mind, the working group is gathering information on developing a suitable information repository for mobile usage.
According to Charles McCathie Nevile from web browser group Opera, the biggest problem that mobile devices currently face is that there are too many different platforms to accommodate and to write for. However, it should be possible in future to load Java code directly into mobiles to access the web.
He added that Mobile Web 2.0 will be all content based, whereby all content, both archive and current, will be easily accessible to all from their mobile devices and instant messaging will be built into the mobile webpage.