More than 25% of mobile phone owners around the world have browsed the Internet via a mobile handset. Market research agencies are speculating that mobile web browsing might become the next dominant Internet platform. For many consumer-driven companies this means that having a WAP friendly website will be a necessity rather than a nice-to-have.
Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! have recognised the potential of this market and are making great efforts to promote mobile commerce to users and advertisers. Most famous brands like Coca-Cola, MTV and Nike now have a mobile portal featuring content designed specifically for handheld devices. Most importantly, though, operators have reduced tariffs and introduced flat-rate plans. This means that an increasing number of your potential customers are using their mobiles to find local businesses, content providers, games and more!
WAP Friendly Mobile Websites
Over 80% of adults and 60% of teens in the UK own mobile phones, and at least 28% of these users have browsed the Internet from their phones. However, a disproportionately low number of consumer-focused websites actually work on WAP enabled handsets.
In order for a site to work on a wireless handset, it must adhere to most website accessibility design guidelines, as set out by the W3C. Mobile handsets use WAP technology to browse the Internet. Because of limited screen size, many WAP browsers strip out CSS, and show text in a method similar to how a search engine spider renders a site.
Principles of Mobile Web Design
- Websites using tables for layout will not render well on mobile handsets. The site must use CSS for layout
- The site must be coded using either XHTML or XML
- Character encoding should be UTF-8
- Bear in mind different screen sizes of mobile users. The largest screen size available is probably 640 x 480, whereas the average is closer to 120 pixels
- The most important information of your site must be right at the top of the page as it can be very time-consuming for browsers to read through
- Text entry can be quite difficult. Users prefer to select values from a list of choices, such as radio buttons or lists
- Images should be jpeg or gif
- Always provide a ‘back’ button or link, since many phones don’t include a back button
- The maximum total page size recommended is 20 kilobytes
- Remember that your users are paying a lot of money to access your site, so make sure it is definitely worth their money!
A number of online resources provide mobile phone simulations, which enable you to view your website as it appears on standard mobile phone screens. Some of them are listed below:
- Google Mobile Proxy
- Palm OS Emulator - Download
- Windows 2003 based Pocket PC Emulator - Download
- Windows 2003 SE Smartphone Emulator - Download
If your website does not render correctly for mobile phone browsers, you should seriously consider modifying your site to attract the growing population of mobile web savvy users that search, browse, book and buy services and products from their mobile phones.