BlissfullyAware: A Website by Joshua Lane

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Dear Mobile Web Folks

Joshua Lane / / 6 Comments

This letter goes out to anyone designing or developing websites for the “mobile web”. And it comes from someone who doesn’t use the “mobile web” and has never designed or developed specifically for it. Huh? Let me explain…

The “mobile web”, to me, has always been a hassle. For one, I’ve never enjoyed the experience of trying to get online with my cell; and once online, the sites I’ve visited have always been rather lackluster. Perhaps that’s due to the limitations of the device (small screen, bad browsers, etc). Either way, the experience has always been a bit of a let-down. So much so that I’ve always felt indifferent when folks talked about the “mobile web” as the next big thing. How could people get so excited about an experience that felt fundamentally crippled?

Fast forward to yesterday (wrap your brain around that phrase!) and all this has changed. Apple’s iPhone is, more or less, presenting “the web”. Not the “mobile web”, but the web as we know it …just on a smaller screen. All of the sites we know and use, rendered the way we expect them to via Safari.

This was always the hardest part about the “mobile web” for me. Every site I would visit would be different than what I’m used to… different features, different look, different experience. It always felt like I had to learn them all over again; and that took work… work I didn’t feel like doing on a tiny little screen. With the iPhone I don’t have to to re-learn anything …no extra work.

Comments Abound

Delightful thoughts & feedback about this article

Mark /

Amen! I think there are SO many people (no, not just Apple fans) who are feeling exaclty how you do (myself included).

I think iPhone’s going to attract millions of users who otherwise feel surfing the web on their phone just isn’t worth the effort yet, as well as innovative designers who’ll no longer feel handicapped by the limitations of the technology.

Keith /

Not to completely rain on the parade (I agree with you for the most part) but what you might not be thinking about is the context of mobile. Just because you can “miniaturize” what you already know, doesn’t mean you should.

In a way people should be providing an experience that’s a bit different on mobile devices. At least that’s the optimum.

You can show me a great looking NY Times on an iPhone running Safari and I’ll still tell you I don’t really want to browse a Web site on my mobile. Not in the traditional sense. Doen’t mean I’m not interested in getting with NYT has to offer in a mobile setting, only that I’d prefer a more moble specific experience. I don’t want a “site” or at least not a mini-Web site. That, to me, is limiting.

The iPhone (and next gen devices like that) should make it easier to get to a great mobile-specific experience, in many ways. And of course for people who want (or can work with) an in-browser style mobile Web experience, well, the bar is really getting low now.

I totally understand how people might not be excited about an experience that they might feel is less “rich” or something limiting but to me it’s exciting to see the ways we can bring Web content to a mobile experience. Even more exciting now that we’re getting multiple, powerful ways to do that.

Widgets on the iPhone, for example, really, really get me excited.

Joshua Lane /

I agree with what you’re saying to some extent Keith. For example, if I just want to buy movie tickets with my phone, I don’t need or want the entire Fandango website. I just want to input my zip code, see what’s playing and then purchase the tickets. Perhaps that is where the widgets will really shine? Maybe they’ll become that “mobile specific experience” you mentioned?

Which gets me wondering how the iPhone will handle the “handheld” media type for CSS. Will Safari use that if it’s present or will it just use the “screen” media type? Thinking a little crazy for a second, perhaps someone could develop a sort of universal widget that could handle all the “handheld” media types for a website. Then that specific experience would load up in a widget interface while the “screen” experience would remain within the Safari browser.

Keith /

I personally would prefer the iPhone, or any handheld device, use the handheld media type. Let’s remember that, as cool as it is, not everyone, or even a majority will have the iPhone.

I think you could provide a better experience though a specific handheld stylesheet. But, again, it’s more than just that. It’s more about the content that gets served than it is the style really.

I do think what you could do is offer, in Safari, a way to override the handheld style…

mark /

I think the problem with the iPhone software showing you the full web is that most data networks aren’t able to show you the full web. I have Opera mini on my cell phone and even with images turned off sites like ESPN.com load exceptionally slowly. So I switch to ESPN mobile (WAP) and everything loads right away, sure it’s different content, but it’s exactly the kind of content I’m looking for while browsing on my phone: short, quick, direct info.

What I’d hope to see in Safari-mobile is the ability to read WAP sites and XHTML sites, because that would allow you the best of both worlds.

Joshua Lane /

That’s a good point Mark… I hadn’t even considered whether or not the networks could actually handle full-on websites. The next couple of years sure are going to be interesting in that space!

…listen to me, getting excited about the “mobile web” ;)

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