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Web Design Hampers Mobile Internet? 434

aws910 writes "Reuters is running an article on how flashy web design is impacting the usability of internet-enabled mobile devices, with quotes from Tim Berners-Lee. Although the article is sparse on details, it is an interesting topic for discussion. Having recently bought an internet-enabled cellphone, I can honestly say that most websites are painful to view on a 240x320 screen over a GPRS connection(EVDO is expensive/US-only). Have we moved away from 56K-modem-oriented design, only to be pulled back in that direction?"
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Web Design Hampers Mobile Internet?

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  • Market (Score:4, Interesting)

    by turtled ( 845180 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:04PM (#12025998)
    Is there that big of a market for mobile internet to have sites double design, one for PCs, one for 320x240 mobile internet devices? I know very few people that use things like that. Usually to check weather and the sports scores.
    • Well, there definitely isn't a big market if the sites are not available for it.

      I use it mainly for news and sports results if I do use it, it's not like I pay my bills or post on Slashdot though.
    • The trick is to have an application framework that can do content format negotiation for you so that you don't have to code multiple versions.

      A clean MVC type pattern and a good framework make this pretty easy. My sites do this and I rely heavily on it for my Treo.

      People questioned the market fo the internet itself until they found how convenient it was to have quick access to a lot of information. Same goes with quick mobile access to a lot of information I would wager.

  • by Evanisincontrol ( 830057 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:06PM (#12026019)
    Have we moved away from 56K-modem-oriented design, only to be pulled back in that direction?"

    I don't see this as really being a problem. People don't really browse the internet with handheld devices (phones, PDAs, etc) actually attempting to REPLACE their computer. People only want to be able to check their stocks or recent headlines. When the content you want to look at is just a dozen lines of text, a PDA is more than adequate. If you want to browse a page that is designed for 1600x1200 resolutions, chances are that the page ISN'T something you need to check right away, and can wait until you get to your computer.
    • I don't see this as really being a problem. People don't really browse the internet with handheld devices (phones, PDAs, etc) actually attempting to REPLACE their computer.

      Oh right, just because you don't see it as happening means that it isn't, right? Well it is and it should.

      Overkill on website design is unncessary. If you want to have that, great, but make sure you spent the little extra time to make sure the data is available for those people that don't have it. You people whine all the time abou
    • hmm, I'm trying...
      I'd like to use a lite-eye HMD (800X600) res display with a pocketpc, but the devices that drive 800X600 res on a pocketpc with SVGA output don't support terminal services- only things like powerpoint slides....

      Consider, in a pocketpc you have SVGA or better output, on a monocular HMD you can have better than 640X480 resolution- using terminal services and wifi you could pull up your desktop from home- anywhere in the world- and run YOUR computer well... in a package that actuall wou
    • by John Seminal ( 698722 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:29PM (#12026402) Journal
      People don't really browse the internet with handheld devices (phones, PDAs, etc) actually attempting to REPLACE their computer.

      Most people don't care how it works, they just want it to work. If cell phones can get a good LCD and a halfway fast internet connection, a good percentage of the population will want it. And if people can check their email, some news websites, and play a game or two, what else do they really need their big desktop for? Chances are, if a person knows their email mailbox is empty and responded to everything there, they checked a few websites on the phone, and played a game of tetris, they might not have any motivation to turn on the pc at home.

      If you want to browse a page that is designed for 1600x1200 resolutions, chances are that the page ISN'T something you need to check right away, and can wait until you get to your computer.

      I don't know of one website that needs 1600 by 1200 to display right. Most websites are made to display fine on a 800 by 600 resolution. I think the day is comming when the lcd's will be good enough that a phone will have a 3.5" screen and be 800 by 600.

      There is too much money in telecom for the telcom companies not to respond to what the public wants. They are making money hand over fist. If telcom companies started offering an extra "broadband" service for an extra $25 a month, that would be a huge revenue stream. Add in some cable to connect a laptop to a cell phone, and you will have TONS of people paying for that service.

    • by pgilman ( 96092 ) <never AT ga DOT in> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:34PM (#12026454) Journal

      from []:

      "Anyone who slaps a 'this page is best viewed with Browser X' label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network."

      - Tim Berners-Lee in Technology Review, July 1996

      the same principle applies to "page[s] that [are] designed for 1600x1200 resolutions." the idea is to keep content separate from presentation - that's what CSS and XHTML and so on are supposed to enable - but that goal is impossible with crap like flash etc.

      as soon as anyone puts a label on a website that says, "this site is designed for _______," it means they're locking some people (blind people, users of text browsers, PDA and cel-phone users, etc.) out of your site, and that's bad business, plus it demonstrates their ignorance of web technology.

  • Consider: the most popular and successful mobile technology is SMS. 160 characters of text.

    Why? Because it is simple enough that people who cannot even use can use it.

    SMS can be seen as the "command line interface" for mobile applications but even this basic model is not well exploited.

    Mobile web is a luxury that will work only for those who run full operating systems on small devices, and it will work via WiFi, not any of the mobile phone (2G, 2.5G, 3G, 4G, whatever) networks.
  • I wrote a portal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DrSkwid ( 118965 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:06PM (#12026025) Homepage Journal
    I just wrote a text only portal to the information I need using Nokia's Python SDK for Symbian 60.

    It screen scrapes the sites I'm interested in and just returns the stuff I *want* to know : local cinema showings, a few RSS feeds, my current bank balance - that sort of stuff

    More work than most people will do but makes me happy :)
  • Is strictly used for Googling 1) facts in dispute, and 2) addresses of places in New York City when I'm tired of winging it.

    Those are about the only things it's useful for.

    Maps? Ha! News? Not worth dealing with it. Stock quotes? Unless you are likely to make a trade, what's the need for quotes on the go?
  • In all honesty... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:07PM (#12026031) Homepage
    Web designers should have been worrying about 56k speeds all along. Not everybody happens to have broadband yet, and even if they do, why should you bleed it all away with huge flash files, etc. If you have to add splash and flash, perhaps your message isn't as good as it could be.
    • Depends on what you are designing. I have several image galleries that take several minutes to load when viewing the page on the host machine. Longer of a lan connection and more time than I care to think about over 56k.

      While I agree that you should program pages for 56k viewing, there are some applications where it is not practical. Oh, and those load times are using thumbnails and not the acutal images (there just happens to be a lot of images).
    • How many businesses really want their web sites to market to people still using 56K? I mean, come on. Even on the road, how many people who need the Internet are going to stay somewhere that does not offer broadband service?

      Forgive me for saying so, but in this day and age, if you dont have or use a broadband connection, just how many people are going to take you seriously on the Internet and want to market their services to you?

      Please dont give me a million Grandma and Grampa stories about how they pic

      • No decent web designer would create pages larger than that, and if IE ever supports PNGs right, this argument is moot.
        IE supports PNGs just fine. In fact, I rarely use GIFs anymore because PNGs have finally become so widely adopted. Now IE doesn't support the alpha channel natively; you have to use a DirectX hack, but that's hardly a show stopper.
    • If you find splash and flash on a web site, its a safe bet there is no meaningful content there.

      Best go elsewhere, rather than wait for the site to load.

    • ...why should you bleed it all away with huge flash files

      Because the market demands it. People like flashy web sites. And advertisers like flashy advertising. If the market demanded 56k web sites, they would be produced.

      This is 2005, not 1995.
  • I tried trolling my favorite messageboard (not slashdot) yesterday from the jon on my cellphone at work and I had a great deal of difficulty in posting an effective topic.

    I think it is high time that America got it's priorities straight and focused more on bathroom/work/trolling technology.
  • not the other way around. If enough consumers clamor for web-enabled mobile devices and sites that support them, then companies will create/modify their sites to accomodate the customers. This is Business 101 stuff.
  • Surprised? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:08PM (#12026052) Homepage
    Having recently bought an internet-enabled cellphone, I can honestly say that most websites are painful to view on a 240x320 screen over a GPRS connection(EVDO is expensive/US-only).

    Well, really, is anyone at all surprised that smaller screens and lower bandwidth is slower and chunkier?

    I've tried using my cell to use the internet, and it took only a few moments to decide it was for emergency use only. Both because it's almost useless and that the providers want to gouge so much for it in the first place.

    Have we moved away from 56K-modem-oriented design, only to be pulled back in that direction?

    We've been moving in that direction ever since more and more idiots have decided I can't see any of their site without flash or some equally annoying browser technology. Gearing for slower links with older technology has been on the decline since someone pointed out it should be done.

  • Simple solutions (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ErikTheRed ( 162431 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:08PM (#12026055) Homepage
    I also just bought an internet-friendly cell phone (Treo 650), and I'm figuring out which sites want me to visit them while I'm on the run (Google and Southwest airlines, to name two off the top of my head) and those that don't (

    Either produce a mobile-friendly version of your site - which shouln't be the end of the world, considering that most major sites these days are run by content management systems, or let the viewers go to your competitors. Automatic browser detection would be nice, but I can handle typing "mobile" or whatever instead of "www".
    • Re:Simple solutions (Score:5, Informative)

      by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:17PM (#12026212)
      Use Weather Underground Mobile [] then and vote w/your "feet".

      IIRC one of the guys from WU has a hiptop (T-mobile sidekick) and even went so far as to create a rocking WU client for it (which I use daily).
    • I am also a proud owner of a Treo. What blocked me from using the internet/GPRS function completely was not the lack of sites, but the costs involved with getting a site. In the Netherlands I pay 1cent per KB. That quickly adds up with the googlepicture of the day etc. After having used it for a day, I was up to 10 euros in usage costs. The pricing for mobile data is outrageous and if that doesn't change then I will never use mobile data services.
    • I find to just be user unfriendly, period, regardless of what platform I happen to me on.

      Same with It's almost like they're trying to create horrible user experience.
  • by NardofDoom ( 821951 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:08PM (#12026061)
    It's not (primarily) the web designers' fault that they use flashy designs. The people who get design contracts aren't the ones who use well-formed, W3C compliant XHTML that is functional even in text-based browsers. The people who get the contracts are the ones who have a 500KB Flash animation on every page and poorly coded Javascript rollovers because clients and PHBs see these things and go "Ooo! Shiny!"

    So until businesses are punished for their lack of interoperability with mobile devices, this will always be the case.

    And it's unlike they'll ever be punished because device manufacturers have the onus to interoperate with bad sites, not vice versa.

    • It's not (primarily) the web designers' fault that they use flashy designs... The people who get the contracts are the ones who have a 500KB Flash animation on every page and poorly coded Javascript rollovers because clients and PHBs see these things and go "Ooo! Shiny!"

      Just because they developed a mainline site that uses flash does not mean they cannot make it detect WAP or low resolution displays and adapt accordingly.

      You can show off all the glitz and glamour with your 90000KB index.htm and still ha
    • by PxM ( 855264 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:35PM (#12026464)
      It's not (primarily) the web designers' fault that they use flashy designs. The people who get design contracts aren't the ones who use well-formed, W3C compliant XHTML that is functional even in text-based browsers. The people who get the contracts are the ones who have a 500KB Flash animation on every page and poorly coded Javascript rollovers because clients and PHBs see these things and go "Ooo! Shiny!"

      The whole point of modern XHTML and CSS is so that web designers can seperate the function of the webpage (deliver content via XHTML) from the form (the particular layout using CSS) and let end users choose the CSS that they want. In theory this should have a minimal XHTML with just pure text and all the glitz should be added in via CSS. FF and similar browsers support switching between multiple stylesheets by defaul, but IE requires webdesigners to allow it via a Javascript widget. Thus, the designers just stick with the flash. Maybe IE7 will help change this if it doesn't suck as much as the previous versions or maybe not given the amount of glitz in Longhorn.

      In an ideal world, one CSS would have the glitzy flash animation and postneoantimodernismdeco-that-will-win-art-contest s design for when I first visit the page and am sucked in by beauty. Another CSS would have a minimalist UI that allows me to find the information on that site as fast as possible. Then handheld users would just use this latter lowbandwith UI by default instead of the flash hog. The web designers can just show the PHBs both versions so it is their fault that modern websites suck. They're making websites with 5 year old technology and the users are suffering for that.

      If you really want to see the power of proper XHTML+CSS, look at the CSS Zen Garden []. The entire site uses a single XHTML file but each version of the main page has a different CSS file. If you didn't know this, you would think that each page was individually coded. And the site is still usable if you strip out the CSS and view just the plain XHTML file.

      Want a free iPod? []
      Or try a free Nintendo DS, GC, PS2, Xbox. [] (you only need 4 referrals)
      Wired article as proof []
  • by qualico ( 731143 ) <worldcouchsurfer ... EBSDom minus bsd> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:09PM (#12026065) Journal
    Let me save you the suspense.
    It's painful.

  • by costas ( 38724 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:09PM (#12026069) Homepage
    The problem is technical, and solvable: my newsbot [] for example offers a personalized list of top news articles formatted for PDA/mobiles []. I am sure there are other services that go beyond news...
  • bah. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by LurkerXXX ( 667952 )
    I can honestly say that most websites are painful to view on a 240x320 screen over a GPRS connection(EVDO is expensive/US-only). Have we moved away from 56K-modem-oriented design, only to be pulled back in that direction?"

    You might, but I sure won't. I don't want to try to compare various items I'm shopping for on such a tiny screen, etc. etc. I won't buy a device for browsing the web unless it can do at least VGA.

    Why demand everyone in the internet re-write the content on all their sites because y

    • Re:bah. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Sentry21 ( 8183 )
      With proper semantic markup and effective use of CSS (including 'mobile' stylesheets), you can create content that renders fantastically nice on the big screen and simply and effectively on the small screen.

      Don't believe me? Load up Konqueror, Firefox, IE, or Opera, and go to []. Looks nice, right? I particularly like the design called A Simple Sunrise []. Pretty nice actually.

      Now grab the link for A Simple Sunrise and look at it in Lynx. More readable than most websites I go to.

  • by diamondsw ( 685967 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:10PM (#12026085)
    Pulling down all of these websites on a Palm or PocketPC is very painful - my Treo 650 would take *forever* to load image-heavy Engadget, for instance. RSS is the perfect solution for the handheld. It allows you to quickly get a list of topics (text only, which is perfect for small screens) and then only load those pieces that interest you.

    RSS is nice on the desktop. RSS is invaluable on the handheld.

    Now if only a decent method of synchronizing multiple RSS clients could be developed (Bloglines doesn't cut it).
    • by mblase ( 200735 )
      RSS is nice on the desktop. RSS is invaluable on the handheld.

      Y'know, this is really what phone users AND web developers ought to be worried about in this area. Many web site front pages are not just graphics-heavy, they're text-heavy. Like a newspaper, they put a little of everything new and interesting on the front page at once, hoping at least something will catch your eye and draw you inside. No handheld or phone, no matter how elegantly designed, is going to be able to display that much text at once
  • by Delilah Jones ( 852061 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:10PM (#12026087)
    It seems plausible to think that the market forces will overpower (or otherwise direct) those of technology in this instance.

    For example, do you think that Amazon will move to a simpler website design to accomodate relatively few mobile users? Or would they go to the trouble to create an alternate 'mobile-only' website?

    The answer?

    Yes, if the market demands for such a headache merit doing so.

    Otherwise, I think the technology of mobile Internet will have to conform to the current market situation of flashy website designs.

  • by anagama ( 611277 ) <> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:11PM (#12026094) Homepage
    I can't believe a dozen comments have been posted all to the effect of "don't look at the net w/ handheld - flashy is good",

    Well, flashy sucks on handhelds or on a real computer. I almost feel like I'm back on a modem when I visit some sites which feel the need to pull their flashy ads of some distant server and won't display squat till that happens. Or sites that are FLASH only - sure it's neat once ... maybe ... but how about just dishing up information?
  • by the_rajah ( 749499 ) * on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:11PM (#12026105) Homepage
    Swiss Army knife.. I can see specialized sites, news, weather and, I suppose, sports scores, offering separate pages optimized for phones, but it's silly, IMO, to think that the majority of sites are going to do this. I'm certainly not planning on doing that with the sites I'm responsible for.

    Once again it's the old concept that I want my cell phone to be.....(gasp) just a phone and a good one. I don't need it to be a digital camera, or a can opener.
  • Today, the low quality-but-cheaper-than-others Spanish ISP known by the stupid name of 'Jazztel' lost another potential customer thanks to its dreadful website: 100% flash! The only way to read its terms and conditions was to get the source of the little scrollable window, paste the text block in a blank document and print it... until I realized that I was the customer.

    Their competition welcomed me with open arms.
  • by Madd0g11 ( 40609 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:12PM (#12026113) Homepage
    If you stick to the standards you can easily make good looking sites that can scale any screen and browser.
  • Who would have thought that webpages designed for 800x640 screens would be hard to read on 240x320 screens?! That's simply shocking! I'm glad this story was posted because it certainly taught me something new!
    • And yes, I have one of those very odd monitors capable of natively running at 800x640. Don't ask me where I got it, as I don't remember.
  • Making overly-complicated pages did not start with the popularization of broadband. Think back to when frames were popular. I can't imagine how some of the framesets I saw eight years ago would render on a cellular phone screen. Many web designers are more artists than programmers, and this means that sacrifices of code readability and simplicity will always be made for the sake of the next big thing in style. Increased bandwidth only makes this problem worse by adding embedded objects and image-heavy
  • If you're on a mobile device and browsing the web for information the sites with the most valuable info will likely be mostly text (aside from ads). If you're on a mobile device and browsing for media entertainment you'll probably want something specifically targeted to your device's size.

    The moral of the story is sites which want to provide pure information should be mostly text and should not be too strict in their formatting (i.e. let the browser decide a lot for you and use relative sizes). Those tha
  • Whilst it might be true, let us not forget that the majority of internet browsers for PDA's and phones really do suck.

    For example, PocketIE is shockingly terrible. It crashes on overly complex content and doesn't handle javascript. Netfront is better, standards-wise, but renders the text completely unreadable.

    Palm's didn't, until recently, even come with a web-browser. I can't comment on how good it is because I've never tried it, but a friend of mine was reported as being "underwhelmed" by it.

    In fact

  • Yes, I'm whoring, but...

    How about having mobile communities do collective adaptation? Sure it might be painful at first when the community is small, but then things gain momentum and flourish. 04 a/

    No, I am not one of the authors.
  • Call me old fashioned but...back in my day we accessed the internet by sitting at our PC's and opening Firefox.
  • The problem is easily solved with style sheets. I have a 3G Nokia, and find browsing the web when on public transport a very good use of my time - but I only frequent those pages (or aggregators) that take into account my viewing dimensions (despite OperaS60). Reading blogs, for example, should be completely painless, since it's mostly text content, but frequently it's a terribly pain. These devices clearly identify themselves via their browser, so websites should apply different style sheets when browse
  • 56k modem? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Dragoon412 ( 648209 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:16PM (#12026193)
    It's not about bandwidth, it's about usability.

    The permeation of flash-based advertising, unnecessarily-bloated UI design, and lack of consideration towards lower-resolution displays have put a damper on mobile web access.

    I know it's at the point where I've recently canceled my unlimited data access on my Sony Ericsson S710a. Why? There just isn't anything to do with it. ...and that may be my one gripe with this article. It seems to be blaming web designers for the lack of functionality on mobile web access. While I think that may, in part, be true, that most mobile devices have low-resolution displays, very little processing power, and less-than-efficient interfaces, operating on overpriced, under-performing data networks is a much larger barrier for the use of mobile web access than just web design.

    Mobile web, right now, is basically about IM, sports scores, news, and very limited email and document handling, and that is the fault of the devices themselves, not web designers.
  • by condour75 ( 452029 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:16PM (#12026198) Homepage
    If you're using best practices -- stylesheets, semantic markup, alternative stylesheets where necessary, it shouldn't be a huge problem to have your site display well on a mobile device.

    The one exception is that some of the more ambitious effects on sites like may be garbled on a reader that attempts to interpret css rules.

    I'd also be concerned with the oncoming popularity of ajax effects on sites.

    Makers of mobile browsers shouldn't be let off the hook either though -- each mobile browser should have an easily accessible stylesheet toggle so that the site information can be seen in lynxlike clarity if necessary.
  • I owned a cell phone capable of web 7 years ago, I believe it was called a Duetto, or something like that. Of course there were very limited sites available, but at the time there was (don't know if it exists anymore) an effort to write for handheld devices with something called HDML. The phone's display was character based, and the surfing was painfully slow, painfully limited, and not worth any money paid for the service subscription.

    It kind of became (and today becomes) the chicken and the egg.... whi

  • by Jhan ( 542783 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:16PM (#12026209) Homepage

    <horse type="hobby">

    The WWW is also useless on a real PC if you actually try to use the resolutions the PC is capable of. For instance my current PC/monitor combination can handle 2048x1536 resolution.

    I tried that just the other day, and >90% of sites were just unusable, even if you increase the font size.

    Then again, >90% is way better than the OS (MacOSX) and my actual applications which was 100% unusable...

    Apple is just sitting on this revolutionary resolution independent windowing system, and they just won't let me use it as intended.

    For gods sake, I just want 300 dpi monitor resolution, is that too much to as for? Especially from the company that popularized WYSIWYG?

    • Use Opera (Score:5, Informative)

      by UpnAtom ( 551727 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @03:01PM (#12026780) Homepage
      Opera scales both text & images (even Flash) through its unique Zoom function.

      It's also the best browser out there anyway. And if you're too cheap to pay a few $$ to use the web the way you want when you've coughed up $hundreds on a monitor, quit complaining. ;)
  • mode. or /pda (Score:2, Informative)

    I've had a Treo 600 for a year and half, and have built a library of PDA friendly sites. Most of the big sites offer an alternative view through either a mobile. prefix on the domain or a /pda suffix to the main site.
    Here are my most used sites from my phone: [] [] [] []
  • Seriously, when will people stop finding sh*t to complain about? Do you really need to view the webernet on your cellphone ? gimme a break.
  • Reuters is running an article on how flashy web design is impacting the usability of internet-enabled mobile devices... Have we moved away from 56K-modem-oriented design, only to be pulled back in that direction

    This is why websites should use Java applets. It is more universal, it does not require downloading the flash player or shockwave. And more phones have built in support for Java.

    I have always been anti-Flash and anti-PDF because they require jumping through hoops to get it to work. Not only do yo

  • I love the fact that the "mobile internet" (whose usefulness, necessity and popularity should be seriously questioned) is discussed with this air of 'manifest destiny'.

    How dare these silly "flashy designs" hamper the true calling of postage-stamp-sized browsing!!!

    If the tables were turned, I imagine design & branding advocates would charge the "mobile internet" with hampering the true calling of world-class design, branding and online entertainment.

    As a designer I agree that standards are of course
  • succinct? (Score:5, Funny)

    by sulli ( 195030 ) * on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:22PM (#12026293) Journal
    the topic is
    sparse on det-
    ails because
    it needs to
    fit into a mo-
    bile phone

  • ...I can't stand flashy websites that require plugins and bandwidth eating graphics to function. I have always made the effort to code only standards compliant, low bandwidth eating fast loading sites.

    The company I work for has a large field contingent with often low bandwidth connections back to corporate so such design behavior is a must. If it can't be done with XHTML1.0/1.1, CSS1/2, and a little javascript (note a LITTLE javascript) than the design needs to be rethought.
  • The hell with the mobile internet, how about just the plain old internet? Proprietary file formats, splashy unreadable graphics, text as graphics, lousy design, etc. You know who you are!

    If the regular internet paid more attention to bandwidth and standards, the mobile web would probably work just fine.

    If a single page requires several hundred K and several plugins only available for a Commodore 64, you know who you are!

  • Well, in the states, we have very slow mobile internet. EDGE should help a bit. I do know verizon offers highspeed mobile internet but its way too damn expensive. For now mobiles will be limited because of their lackluster support of what many deem standard web practices. Flash and other multimedia won't be going away anytime soon. Mobiles even have a hard time with javascript at least the ones I've used. Ever try to pull up
    and get directions? Well it just doesn't work. Google forcibly trie
  • Media="handheld" (Score:2, Insightful)

    A properly formatted page allows content to be available to everyone. For example, part of the W3C [] specs allow you to specify a separate style sheet for use with handheld devices. I've done this myself on our website at work, reformatting content completely for handhelds. Of course, its up to the browser to recognize this, but standards compliance is a two-way street. Both websites and browsers need to recognize and be in compliance to standards to allow content accessibility in just such cases. Kind of the
  • Accidental Design (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @02:38PM (#12026504) Homepage Journal
    Yet another example of how these page layouts aren't "Web design", but "graphic design" for the Web. Or not really for "the Web", but rather for "IE 5.0 and more or less other apps that work kinda like it". Graphic designers are just starting to hit the hard limits of their "discipline" that industrial designers hit in the early 20th Century. When "designed" objects had to "work", and work with other designed objects not desigend as one combined object. We came up with "system design", which graphic designers haven't even considered since Churches in the Renaissance. Graphic design as a subset of graphic art, rather than encompassing art and related function, is an accident waiting to happen.

    At a degree of complexity, esthetics and function part ways. When we're lucky, esthetics catches up eventually. With the Web, too much graphic design rushed ahead without regard to functional requirements. The Mobile Web is the first major change in the Web platform, and the graphic "design", or lack of it, is cracking under the strain.
  • Yeah (Score:3, Informative)

    by RzUpAnmsCwrds ( 262647 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @03:17PM (#12026944)
    As someone who actually reads (and posts on) Slashdot from a mobile device, including right now, let me tell you this:

    1: You need a device with a keyboard. The Treo and iPaq are OK, the Blackberry is better, and the Danger Hiptop (T-Mobile Sidekick) is perfect.

    2: You need a big screen.

    3: You need a good browser. This leaves the Treo with Blazer (kind of - it's not the fastest) and the Hiptop. The iPaq is OK if you load NetFront (Pocket IE sucks). The Blackberry just doesn't cut it.

    So, we're left with the Sidekick / Hiptop. It's the only mobile device that I will carry. It's what I just wrote this post on.

    Most pages work great. Some don't. But *every* page is unusable unless you have a large screen and a good browser.

    Slashdot, by the way, works ideally on my Sidekick.
  • by tachyonflow ( 539926 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @03:18PM (#12026957) Homepage
    I have a Treo 650, and the "kilobyte meter" at the top of the Blazer web browser has certainly opened my eyes to how heavyweight some web sites are. I can't pull up an article on without pulling down about a megabyte of data. Fortunately, the Treo 650's high resolution and Sprint's fairly speedy data service make this mostly painless, but I have to wonder if high-performance cellphones and heavyweight web sites are hurting Sprint's data network. Also, I bet these sites are really sluggish on 56k modems.

    I've been thinking about how to best design a web site to solve this problem. For dynamic web sites, alternate "views" of the site could be automatically selected for different web browsers -- as long as there is sufficient separation between the content and the presentation. Maybe CSS could help, too.

  • by asapien ( 582847 ) on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @03:57PM (#12027433) Homepage
    The answer is to use web standards, you can have a seperate style sheet for handhelds. The real problem is that too many sites still use tables to lay out their content, so when you look at it in a handheld, you can't strip the text easily from all the other crud that takes up all the screen real-estate. But with style sheets, the content can be easily repurposed, and I've even simply turned off the style sheet for hand-helds, so that they just get the meat of the site in the text. Handhelds work great for reading text, but most sites are designed for visual impact. Also doing sites "all in flash" can be a problem. The typical gui's people build for navigation will just show up too small on a hand-held, but if you use style sheets instead of tables to create naviagtion, you can use a simple list of links
    1. that will be usable on a handheld when its styled for it. When most sites are using web standards, they will be more usable for handhelds. I just believe strongly that table based layout is the biggest culprit.
  • by Andy Dodd ( 701 ) <atd7.cornell@edu> on Wednesday March 23, 2005 @04:21PM (#12027741) Homepage
    Rutgers University has a somewhat nifty website called that is supposed to display the location of Rutgers buses in semi-realtime. This is needed because the Rutgers bus system is horribly fucked up and inconsistent, and it's nice to be able to know that the bus you're waiting for won't show up for 40 minutes when your destination is only 20 minutes away on foot (admittedly though not-so-nice parts of campus...)

    Problem: The site is heavily dependent on JavaScript and ActiveX. Not only is it useless on mobile devices, it's useless on any non-Windows machine.

    The end result: The people who need the information the most (students freezing their asses off at bus stops) have no way to access the information from their phones, no matter what capabilities the phones may have.

    Typical Rutgers. Why the hell did I choose to go here for grad school?

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982