Sunday, September 25, 2011

Should webmasters make their sites mobile friendly? How?

In the past months, I have heard a lot more about the desirability of making one’s web presence mobile phone compatible. This issue might, for some people, have an effect on their online reputation, or at least on the market penetration of their business.

For example, Blogger has encourage publishers to make a setting change that causes most blogs to display in simplified single columnar mobile format on most devices.  I have done this so far with my “smaller” blogs.

There are many factors that influence this question. First, not all mobile phones treat content the same way.

Some phones might be able to view content in landscape format and not need the single column view. 

Columnar format does not even work yet on my own Blackberry, but I will talk to Verizon soon about this.  My own blogs (those I have converted) do display “properly” on other people’s Androids.

Generally, content that  has lots of detail and that is relatively static and “academic” in nature probably does not need mobile friendliness much. It is more likely to be viewed on conventional PC’s, Macs, and laptops from both.

However, the way people behave “on the road” is changing. I carry a small Toshiba W7 laptop and MiFi card, and it works almost everywhere, but already it seems cumbersome;  I imagine I will eventually need to be able to work with just a “very smart phone” when on “the road alone” (pun intended).

Generally, mobile content needs to be stored on a database, scraped into areas defined in XML schema components (like DTD’s and XSD’s) and use formatting (various kinds of style sheets) to display the content.  (Wordpress uses MySQL, and Blogger uses a proprietary dababase that functions in a way similar to MySQL, I think.)  This may right now be a lot more work for some webmasters (like me) who have a lot of intricate content, where tables (in traditional HTML) are much more efficient to code.  The mobile-friendly web object will have scripting  (ASP, PHP, etc) that can determine the kind of device accessing the site and format properly accordingly.

Mobile friendliness would be most critical for people who have “breaking news” from a business of a narrow area, or for whom the speed with which customers receive information is of tactical importance.  It’s obviously important, for example, in reporting sports scores, and probably for news sites with quick scoops (as opposed to strategic arguments).   It’s more important for “winning converts” than “winning arguments”.

The best article that I found  on website mobile compatibility is by Arfa Mirza, “How and Why to Make Your Website Mobile Phone Compatible”, link here.

On Plaveb, Web Paradigm Shift, Mark Spenser writes “How to Make Mobile Compatible Website”, link here

On Tech Radar, “How to make your website mobile”, by STE Brennan, link here

XSitePro has this tutorial on YouTube
Note that this service presumes you have a separate site for mobile (with link duplication, which some search engines may not like), but that it provides the ability to update both sites simulataneously. 

Note (Oct 10): I've found with doaskdotell.com's new home page, that if you use Expression Web to set up the tables, and set up the page in columns, the Blackberry browser will adjust the columns so both fit automatically.

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