Designing for the Mobile Web: A Background

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The mobile web has had a rough and slow start. But now, thanks to faster data networks and the proliferation of devices that has improved web browsing support, mobile browsing is finally catching up.

Designing for the mobile web however is not an easy endeavor, brought by the limitations of mobile devices themselves, the lack of a mature mobile web standards to guide the web developers and designers alike and the spotty implementations of these standards by the different mobile device web browsers.

Perhaps the most glaring limitation of the mobile web browser is its size. The small screens of the mobile devices dictates that proper design decisions must be made to minimise if not totally prevent horizontal scrolling since this mechanism may not be fully supported by all mobile web browsers.

The nature of input mechanisms in mobile devices should also be considered when designing for the mobile web; input is often with a stylus, not a mouse. Most of the time a stylus is not even provided.

The slow and sometimes expensive downloading in mobile devices is also a strong design limitation. Coupled with the strong likelihood of a mobile devices having slow processors and limited memory, this dictates the web designers must rethink of how they use images in their design.

Though the limitations above pose valid reasons for a difficult web designing experience for mobile devices, nothing makes it more difficult than the unpredictable support of mobile device browsers for xhtml and css standards. A succesful design for mobile web must therefore scale elegantly to the browser with the suckiest standards support.

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