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The Internet Communications

New Tools Help Create Cellphone-Friendly Web Sites 78

Posted by Zonk
from the mobile-interweb-needs-food-badly dept.
David Kesmodel from WSJ writes "New low-cost tools are making it easier for companies to register and build Web sites designed for cellphones, the Wall Street Journal reports. Domain-name registrars such as GoDaddy and Network Solutions are starting to roll out all-inclusive packages to target the mobile Web. And mobile-content specialists such as the U.K.'s Bango Ltd. offer their own mobile kits that help companies set up a basic mobile Web presence. Even so, the wireless Internet is still a long way from attracting a critical mass of users."
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New Tools Help Create Cellphone-Friendly Web Sites

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  • ...to be broadsided by someone surfing the web while heshe is driving
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by mdboyd (969169)
      Look at the bright side: You'll be able to surf the web with your mobile phone to get the number for 91--err... nevermind.
    • ...to be broadsided by someone surfing the web while heshe is driving

      My bike has a design feature which discourages this. You need two hands to drive it, particularly to operate both brakes. So maybe we need a new design rule for cars to enforce two handed operation.

      • I've seen people drive stick while using a cell phone. So that isn't a good enough deterrent.
      • by Nullav (1053766)
        If something like that were done, it would only make driving more dangerous than if we left people with their cellphones. Such a 'feature' would frustrate people to the point that they'd either buy a used car when they had to buy a new one, or modify the vehicle in order to use one hand.

        Cellphones or not, people will usually have some distraction (I.E. food, beverages, children, or one of a plethora of other things).
    • I'd stab said person in the face.
    • Psh! i currently am on my RAZR and in a car as i type this already! im using opera mini.
  • Rediscovered (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) * <lajollahomeless@hotmail.com> on Thursday April 05, 2007 @05:06PM (#18627841) Homepage Journal
    The value of concise plain text. Maybe they'll patent the CSS for "plain text" before the end of the year.
    • by fatphil (181876)
      Unlikely. I seem to remember heading off to yahoo's wap homepage a few months ago, and being greeted with nothing but relatively large logos, weighing in at about 160K/page.

      You have to _chose_ to put large images on your website. It's always been easy to design sites which are lightweight, it's just that numbnutted people persistently chose not to. At least that's one thing that google still do right.

      FatPhil

      • by LuYu (519260)

        You have to _chose_ to put large images on your website. It's always been easy to design sites which are lightweight, it's just that numbnutted people persistently chose not to.

        Yeah, that is what I was thinking when I read this. Seriously, if people were designing websites properly, it would not matter what the screen size was. Why does bad design have to be made up for by a crapload of extra JavaScript (or *shudder* even Java itself) when HTML is designed to change the text to fit into any window siz

    • by Ilgaz (86384)

      The value of concise plain text. Maybe they'll patent the CSS for "plain text" before the end of the year.
      http://my.opera.com/community/dev/device/ [opera.com]

      See anything like "patent" there? no. They just say stick to the freaking standards.

  • to make simple text websites?
    • by nthomas (10354) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @05:32PM (#18628149)

      They need special tools to make simple text websites?

      I have found that you don't need to have specialized tools or make special websites for mobile devices as long as you follow the standards and generally accepted web design principles.

      Case in point: I was able to surf on Google on my BlackBerry just fine, even before they added a special mobile section. Google more or less used sane HTML+CSS and I really didn't have any major issues with them.

      Other sites however, were doing funky things with JavaScript and Flash and other non-standard or ill-conceived technologies (e.g. by making their site completely useless unless you were running MSIE 6.x at exactly 1024x768 with ActiveX enabled) so I was never able to visit them at all.

      No special tool can compensate for lack of common sense

      Thomas

      • by rio (84645)
        Recently we were combing through the site logs, and noticed we indeed DID have some cell-phone access to our site. Which to me was about as weird as seeing recent access to some ancient "noframes" text that hadn't been popping up on the site logs for quite some time.

        We still hand-code here... long story as to why.

        Nevertheless, I was wondering if the no-frames access was related to the cell phone access? (My own access to the logs is only to the overview reports, not the full log entries, so I'm not able to
        • Um, yes. Very few mobile devices will support frames.

          To make a decent mobile website, it's probably best to think in terms of Netscape 1.0 or even Mosaic. Linear text with a few small images, no styles, no frames, no objects (flash, etc), no background image or colors, and no tables.

          I'm kind of surprised to see you laughing at this. People who access your site by mobile are quite likely to be tech-aware business people and influential engineers ... you know.. those people who spend lots of money?
          • by rio (84645)
            Sure, they might be tech-savvy, some of our customers are. But, time and again we've invested $1k in time and sold $10 maybe. The site is not complex, just huge. The noframes text points to a site index page with direct links to everything. However, I can see cobbling up an order form catering to cell phones ... that's not much hassle.

            Anyway, thank you for taking the time to verify that the cell phone browsers aren't frames-savvy :)
            We can at least embark on making sure the noframes text is relevant...

            --ri
          • by jp10558 (748604)
            I suppose it depends on many factors, but many many cellphones support Opera Mobile or Mini, which as far as I know, supports a large subset of what Opera 8/9 supports.
        • by Kelson (129150) *

          Anyway, after noticing the cell phone accesses, I went looking to see if there was anything I needed to know or do different (I was hoping NOT) and if it was going to be worth it. I didn't find any information at all (regarding anything notable needed for cell phone access) when searching at google

          The trick is to look for "mobile" or "handheld" (which is the relevant CSS media) not "cell phone." Some useful references on this topic include Making Small Devices Look Great [opera.com] at Dev.Opera and Pocket-sized Des [alistapart.com]

          • by rio (84645)
            Ahhh, thanks for the heads up on getting the terms right for searches :) Thanks for the links as well.

            --rio
      • by LuYu (519260)

        Special tools make up for stupid web designers who use MSWord or other bloatware to design their sites. MSWindows is hurting the general public yet again.

      • by suv4x4 (956391)
        Google more or less used sane HTML+CSS and I really didn't have any major issues with them.

        Have you seen the amount of errors Google spews in the validators? It's in the hundreds.
        Most of the Google pages use excessive tables for layout.

        Truth is ever simpler: sane or insane HTML+CSS, as long as the site is simple enough not to cause excessive scrolling on a tiny screen, or need complex JS/Flash, it'll work on any modern mobile device.
        • On this topic, Google attempt to convert all the bloated web pages out there into lightweight HTML, when you search via your mobile. This was quite handy... although it was probably over conservative in splitting pages up, so you constantly had to click to new pages.

          Unfortunately, this functionality stopped working a while back - even the feature to "show me the real HTML" - instead it just shows one tiny fraction of the page with various broken links. As a result Google search is now totally useless on my
      • by rekil (1083221)
        Nothing wrong with non-standard or ill-conceived technologies IMO, just as long as they're on the server side.
  • So they re-discover a basic fundamental principle of web design.
    Maybe nobody has used this page [google.com]? Or better yet this one [google.com]?
  • by symes (835608) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @05:12PM (#18627919) Journal
    If I'm out and about and need to look something up on the web I no longer try and use my mobo... call me lazy if you want, but I ring someone up who is most likely sat in front of a machine and kindly as them to do it for me. I don't know if it's me, my eyesight or what (ok, enough of the porn gags) but I just find it really hard to anything useful on such a small screen. Particularly as I usually carry a tablet and can usually find a wireless network. Surfing the net on my phone is a neat idea, I just can't see anyone using it a great deal. Am I alone here?
    • Well, I don't think you are alone, but I did use the net recently on my phone with good results. I bought tickets online using Fandango mobile. It was fast, easy, and I didn't have to raise my voice in a crowded restuarant! (dinner date wanted to make SURE we had tickets)
    • by elysian1 (533581)
      I can understand where you're coming from. I can see this changing with the iPhone though. It has a larger screen and a full featured browser. Too bad it's going to cost at least $500.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dwater (72834)
        A lot of Nokia phones have a full featured browser too, with the somewhat recent release of their new web browser. It's reportedly based off the same code as Safari, so I would expect it to behave similarly. I've used it on my 3250 and an N95, and it's really pretty and gives a reasonable experience on small screens (the 'back' feature is really cool, and the overview that you get when moving around a page is neat too).

        Also, you can get opera, of course.

        Frankly, I don't see what advantage Apple has in this
    • Surfing the net on my phone is a neat idea, I just can't see anyone using it a great deal. Am I alone here?
      No, I only use mine to read BBC News on the go (they have a good mobile site) and to access a little 'hello world' type page on my home server, just as a check that all is well at the house. Anything else is fruitless.
      • by dwater (72834)
        I occasionally use mine to help me in those moments when I just can't remember something....usually to do with movies so I end up going to imdb. It's not a particularly pleasant experience, but it does actually work.
      • by Ilgaz (86384)

        Surfing the net on my phone is a neat idea, I just can't see anyone using it a great deal. Am I alone here?

        No, I only use mine to read BBC News on the go (they have a good mobile site) and to access a little 'hello world' type page on my home server, just as a check that all is well at the house. Anything else is fruitless.

        We managed to reach a completely wrong, weird area while trying to get to Ikea Istanbul. What we did? I fired Opera Mini at my cell phone and went to www.ikea.com.tr web (not wap) page, zoomed the map they give over my tiny cell phone and happily found it.

        I am quoting/replying to you but trying to tell those "iPhone ships", "my 1 Gig PDA runs web browser" people why you should really care about mobile sites and browsing users. Even Slashdot has mobile friendly content at wap.slashdot.org , not like CmdrTac

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Most of my mobile internet use is in 'dead time', such as on the train. I can read my email, BBC News, Slashdot (not meaning to suck up, but http://www.slashdot.org/palm [slashdot.org] is a textbook study in how to adapt your content for mobile) etc on my way to work rather than waste time when I get there. It's not a device to do serious work, but it's a nice way to make the journey pass more pleasantly.
    • by enjo13 (444114)
      That was true for me until Nokia released their new browser for S60. It's an amazing experience and the full-page rendering with some really novel navigation actually makes the mobile web extremely useable. There are still some sites that do funky things with Javascript/Flash that give it trouble, but for my needs it's nearly perfect.
    • by miceuz (754811)
      I personally am kinda hooked up to Opera Mini, it's not good for real read, but ok for infosnacking while sitting in the bus, etc. Besides, the mobile browsing is HUGE in Japan - everybody is dug into their mobile in the trains - browsing some kind of message boards.
    • by Gobbin (521757)
      I have friends that do that.

      I'm the one "who is most likely sat in front of a machine".

      I hate you.
    • by real gumby (11516)
      Well it's useless for browsing, but could be handy for looking for things like opening hours, schedules, and the like that you might quickly want to find rather than, say, reading slashdot.

      Unfortunately I say "could be" and not "is" because every time I try to do that with my phone I end up at some pathetic lavascript-using, flash-belarded, "best when viewed in" site rather than something designed for, say, the web!

      If you're super-lucky you could infer the navigation required, but usually it's just easier,
  • Don't (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    There is no need to create a different website for mobile devices. Go look at the latest Nokia phones (or the Apple iPhone). Their KHTML-based browser can show me most websites just like they appear on my desktop, and it's not difficult to navigate them even with the smaller screen. With 3G, surfing is finally fast enough to be actually usable.

    Now, considering mobile technology most likely only keeps getting better, creating separate "mobile" websites seems like a waste of time and money.
    • by MS-06FZ (832329)
      Yeah, it bugs me whenever I load up a site on my Treo and the site itself decides that I ought to be seeing a reduced-functionality version of the site. Blazer's not perfect by a long shot, but it doesn't need the super dumbed-down version of a page, either.

      'Course, there is one advantage to sites custom made for phones - they're designed to fit low-res, physically-small screens. That's not something you can get dynamically, it's something you need to plan for.
    • by Ilgaz (86384)

      There is no need to create a different website for mobile devices. Go look at the latest Nokia phones (or the Apple iPhone). Their KHTML-based browser can show me most websites just like they appear on my desktop, and it's not difficult to navigate them even with the smaller screen. With 3G, surfing is finally fast enough to be actually usable.

      Now, considering mobile technology most likely only keeps getting better, creating separate "mobile" websites seems like a waste of time and money.

      Some of us cares about the other 1 billion people using WAP 1/2 and Opera Mini browsers to reach content effectively.

      For Opera mini, trick is simple: Code web standards based. For WAP conversion tools? Another trick: Code web standards based.

    • by Ilgaz (86384)

      There is no need to create a different website for mobile devices. Go look at the latest Nokia phones (or the Apple iPhone). Their KHTML-based browser can show me most websites just like they appear on my desktop, and it's not difficult to navigate them even with the smaller screen. With 3G, surfing is finally fast enough to be actually usable.

      Now, considering mobile technology most likely only keeps getting better, creating separate "mobile" websites seems like a waste of time and money.

      So somehow everyone on earth became so rich and techie to buy mini computers branded as "phones" now? Also whole planet moved to 3G? I also know some dollar millionaires wouldn't TOUCH anything named "Smart" not because they can't afford.

      Please, stop this ignorance.

  • by Tumbleweed (3706) * on Thursday April 05, 2007 @05:18PM (#18627983)
    "Can you parse me, now?"
  • I abandoned cell phones a few years back and have been using smartphones ever since. Despite obvious formatting issues, regular websites on a Windows Mobile or Palm OS device are a much better alternative. I used to try getting directions, phone numbers, weather, etc. on my cell phone using whatever WAP sites I could find. Over 90% of them were junk, unnavigable, or unworkable. Google lets you send an SMS to them to get information and that helped, but it still wasn't enough. It's 2007 and major commerc
  • It's not tools that make mobile telephone-based internet apps. succeed, it's the cost of your plan, and the quality / utility of the app. Here in Europe, we've have 2.5G, 3G and EDGE for a while - the biggest usage of mobiles, aprt from calling, is still SMS messages. WAP was a massive failure here - too slow, expensive and no perceived value. I-mode was a huge success in Japan - cheap, fast and loads of content. I finally got a decent data plan here in France with my new Blackberry Pearl. So, I can do
  • by shalunov (149369) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @05:23PM (#18628033) Homepage
    The success story that the article talks about is about getting one lead a day only. If 5% of these convert into visitors who actually come and stay at the inn, that's 1 or 2 new visitors per month. Unlikely to be worth any trouble with the website. The inn owner would have been better off spending that money on Google AdWords. He's effectively attracting callers with what must be tens of dollars per call cost. If that's the success story, what's the typical outcome?
    • by MikeFM (12491)
      I don't agree. No more complex than a mobile website is to make it doesn't cost a lot or take much time. It's mostly making your site work even when bells and whistles such as Javascript, CSS, Flash, and Java aren't available and keeping your text terse and to the point and your images sized for small devices. I don't really see a point to the mobi tld but part of that is because of the stupid choice of 'mobi' which is itself a pain to enter on a phone. My vote is still for 'pad' which could actually be ent
  • ...because it's so much better than using the computer I'm sitting next to.
  • by Rix (54095) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @06:04PM (#18628535)
    Wouldn't it make *much* more sense to standardize on mobi.domain.tld? I don't see any reason for a separate tld for this, other than to make registrars money?

    -1 Spam.
  • ...is spotty.

    Google Maps is slick. I get traffic, directions and maps for locations, and not too slow. Just not intuitive enough.

    SMS to googl (46645) and I get pretty good results. Especially for business phone numbers and the address to Fry's Electronics...

    www.google.com is tolerable. Usually about 15 seconds to render the results.

    And BerryBlogs is the cat's ass. It just plain works, RSS means never having to wait 7 minutes (yes, SEVEN minutes) for an Infoworld page to render to the point that it tell
  • by Onan (25162) on Thursday April 05, 2007 @06:35PM (#18628879)
    Steps for creating a phone-friendly website:

    1) Use well-written, flexible html to suggest general formatting. Do not attempt pixel-precise layout.

    2) Do not rely on ecmascript, flash, css, or any other superfluous nonsense. If you do choose to add such boondoggles to your site, make sure that things function properly without them.

    3) Keep in mind that not all clients will display all attributes in the same way. "Strong" may not always mean bold, meanginful alt tags should be used for clients that don't display images, and so on.

    You may notice that these are the same steps that are required for creating any civilized website. If you've done things right in the first place, you should not need to know or care whether your clients are 30" displays, text readers, cellphones, search engines, or whatever new context will be popular next year.

  • i love opera mini. i have the internet in my pocket for a reasonable price. :)
    • by oblonski (1077335)
      I can't believe this even warrants a Wall Street journal, never mind /. article. Opera mini has been free since late 2005 and their small screen rendering tech is the best thing since bread came sliced. The latest version 3.1 even has a RSS feed reader. it is now 6:15am and i am in bed reading my /. Feeds, my gmail and anything else on the web even internet banking for a couple cents. Going to testmy.net gives a 384kbps reading and I can view anything including the peacefire site and you wanna know the best
      • by Ilgaz (86384)
        Not just that, Opera mini is the ONLY application which ALL Networks/GSM companies suggest in their official support/downloads section. There hasn't been a single application/service these people agreed.

        Supporting (!) Opera Mini on your site is easy too: Just care about web standards. You will be amazed that it even "figures" the Site menu and displays it like you have sit down and coded it exclusively for it.
  • Did anyone spot the strange link to a trailer for Wheels the Movie in that WSJ article? The trailer looks like a very clever parody, but how did it get in there?
  • This is like helping a spammer to get his email program up and running. Coming from GoDaddy it doesn't surprise me. And why are we giving them [slashdot.org] the time of day?
  • Why don't we make cell phones fit to display websites as they are?
    • by Kelson (129150) *

      Why don't we make cell phones fit to display websites as they are?

      Because it's hard to fit a 10-inch screen on a cell phone and still carry it in your pocket.

      Even when the base cell phone reaches the point that it can handle all the scripting, plugin content, etc. that the major desktop browsers can handle, it'll still have a smaller screen size. Most sites are designed for 8 inches or wider (800 pixels at 96 dots per inch). So to get a usable view of the site, either a cell phone browser has to adjus

  • I would just use opera mini that even has a RSS feed reader, thus I am in bed now and posting this from my mobile. My gmail and internet banking and the whole web in my hand in bed for a couple of cents. You can do most anything you can do from desktop. Testmy.net returns a speed of 384kbps and I can see peacefire.org just fine thank you. And u wanna know the best part: i'm in south africa. So why waste time and money with all the lame solutions I've seen posted so far? Just my 0.02...
    • Thanks for posting this. I was much too tired last night while i was in bed reading feeds. All these other ideas seem so odd for anyone to even worry about and the guy who shunned "cell" phones (Which, unless they're analog, really aren't based on cellular technology.) for "smart" phones seems a bit out of the loop. I've had Opera Mini for almost two years and I use it like crazy. My laptop hasn't seen me in weeks and my desktop is now a gaming machine. I even found a job on my old Samsung A920 phone. Caree
  • I don't need no damn graphics hogging up my connection, which is limited to a measly 5GB / month. WAP should be enough for anybody!

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