A NEW MEDIUM

So what is this mobile web, and why is it something so different that it deserves whole books dedicated to it? Well, on one hand, it is nothing dramatic at all. The fundamental idea is still that you have a browser, a server, some standardized protocols and file formats passing between them, and a user who can view and traverse through content provided by site owners.

And you ’ ve now reached a point where, more or less, those protocols and fi les are written, produced, and interpreted in the same way on a desktop or laptop computer as they are on a mobile device. For markup, most mobile devices accept and handle some sort of XHTML or HTML5; for graphics, they can display PNG, GIF, or JPEG files with high color depth; for styling, at least simple forms of CSS should be understood and interpreted in some way; and, on contemporary devices, JavaScript is feasible for adding interactivity to a mobile website.

So far, so familiar. In terms of technology, you are more or less on familiar ground. You should be careful of one or two things: Flash and Silverlight, for example, are not recommended for widespread use on mobile handsets, because there are major swathes of devices that do not support either, so they should be used selectively at most.

But despite the fact that they build on the same standards, you do need to treat mobile browsers significantly differently from desktop ones. Some of the reasons for this are still technical in nature. A mobile network is not the same as a landline Internet connection, for example. There are considerations of throughput and latency — not to mention a possible cost to the subscriber — when a mobile device is accessing a website over a cellular network. Sensibly, a mobile website should be extremely considerate toward the requirements it makes on the network; large, unwieldy pages that are slow to display and render are clearly not well suited to the challenge.

Also, despite huge advances in processor power and graphics acceleration, most mobile browsers are running on hardware that is well below the specification of an average computer. Sites that put undue load on the CPU or even GPU of a mobile device are likely to be more sluggish than the same site on a desktop device. And even if the handset can provide a decent user experience for such a page, it probably comes at the expense of temperature or battery usage, something that is still at a premium in most handheld devices.

Finally, of course, a mobile device has a different form factor and size to a desktop computer. It certainly has a smaller screen, probably with a different default orientation, and may lack a physical keyboard and almost certainly lacks a mouse. Any website that makes desktop - based assumptions about a particular type of input device or screen size undoubtedly provides a suboptimal experience on a mobile device. For these reasons alone, it is worth thinking about the mobile web as a different medium than the desktop - centric Web that we all use.

But that ’ s not the whole story. Consider cinema and television, for example. There are certainly similarities between them: Both present visual information on screens, people sit and view them,
and both can display the same material in theory. But there is still no doubt that the two are treated as distinct media — even spawning entirely separate industries. Is there more to that distinction than simply the fact that the two have different sized screens?

Yes, of course. And the differences are context and user expectation. A cinema - goer is in a distinct state of mind: possibly out for the evening with friends or family, prepared to pay money for a very particular piece of visual entertainment, and amenable to being presented with a solid period of rich, visual storytelling — the movie he ’ s selected. The television occasionally gets used in this way, of course, but also services different sorts of expectation from its users: turning it on quickly to catch the news, short episodic programming, children ’ s ad - hoc entertainment, or even just as background noise. The way humans want to interact with the technology determines how content gets created for it.

So it is with the mobile web. Yes, many mobile devices can render the same websites as those designed for a desktop screen, but apart from the technical limitations of doing so, the ways in
which the two technologies actually get used can also be very different. A desktop user is sedentary, probably relatively comfortable, and quite probably using the Web for a lengthy session, either professionally or for leisure. A mobile user, snatching time to use her handheld browser, perhaps on the move, is more likely to have a shorter browsing session, has a focused goal in mind, and is far less likely to surf aimlessly about. The mobile user can easily be in a distinctly different state of mind and bringing an entirely different set of expectations to his web browsing experience.

Of course, there will be individual websites where exactly the same content, and exactly the same design, can be presented to multiple types of devices and users in different contexts. A site that comprises merely a simple collection of plain text documents, for example, probably doesn ’ t need to change significantly between mobile and desktop consumption (assuming the layout and typography adapts to different physical constraints).

But few sites on today ’ s Web are as static and immutable as that. Through the prevalence of content management systems, even the simplest personal website is database - driven, dynamically themed, administered online, and encouraging of reader feedback. Not only is it valuable to think about how different types of readers might want to consume the information on such a site, but it ’ s extremely easy to implement solutions that take account of the types of browsers they use, reformatting the page, promoting different sections of the site, resizing graphics for different screens, and so on.

From a site owner ’ s point of view, this is exciting: The mobile web is a distinct enough new medium to consider as a priority when designing and building a site, so it ’ s arguably a revolution . But from a practical point of view on the server, its implementation is merely an evolution : You can use today ’ s tools, today ’ s plug - ins, and your existing experience, and you can make use of the current content and functionality that you provide to the homogenous desktop user base and potentially get it into the hands of billions of mobile users.

Source of Information : Wiley - Professional Mobile Web Development with WordPress Joomla and Drupal

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