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Strategies for mobile versions of sites, any tips?

RothgarrRothgarr Registered User regular
What are good strategies to make a site as accessible as possible to mobile devices?

i don't think having just a mobile version of a css file cuts it any more as sites get more and more complex. Plus, with phones such as iPhone providing a good experience to begin with, it would ignore the mobile style sheet anyway. And for iPhone I'd want to offer a unique experience.

So what would you suggest if you want to support iPhone and Blackberry? (android later if the stats show visitors from that user agent)

For iPhone I was thinking of directing all traffic with the iPhone (and iPod) user agent to a subdomain (or webapp). At that subdomain provide only the absolute essentials such as the most recent 10 articles posted and a search field to find older content. At the top of the page I'd always provide a link to allow those visitors to go to the full site (and drop a cookie to remember the visitor's preference). I'd also have a link appear at the top of the full site version to allow visitors to go back to the iPhone-optimized site.

Is that a good strategy?

As for Blackberry, I'm completely stumped. Don't they have a bazillion different screen sizes with each device having different page rendering capabilities? What's the best way to provide an optimized experience for them?

Thanks!

Rothgarr on

Posts

  • ransimransim Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    Rothgarr wrote: »
    What are good strategies to make a site as accessible as possible to mobile devices?

    i don't think having just a mobile version of a css file cuts it any more as sites get more and more complex. Plus, with phones such as iPhone providing a good experience to begin with, it would ignore the mobile style sheet anyway. And for iPhone I'd want to offer a unique experience.

    So what would you suggest if you want to support iPhone and Blackberry? (android later if the stats show visitors from that user agent)

    For iPhone I was thinking of directing all traffic with the iPhone (and iPod) user agent to a subdomain (or webapp). At that subdomain provide only the absolute essentials such as the most recent 10 articles posted and a search field to find older content. At the top of the page I'd always provide a link to allow those visitors to go to the full site (and drop a cookie to remember the visitor's preference). I'd also have a link appear at the top of the full site version to allow visitors to go back to the iPhone-optimized site.

    Is that a good strategy?

    As for Blackberry, I'm completely stumped. Don't they have a bazillion different screen sizes with each device having different page rendering capabilities? What's the best way to provide an optimized experience for them?

    Thanks!

    I'm currently tackling this right now for several large sites at my job.

    What we did first was take a look at our analytics and figure out what phones were visiting, whether or not we needed to support something like WAP browsers or if we could just focus on smart phones.

    For us we've decided to address any issues with smart phones first then talk about WAP phones later.

    With the smart phones we did full scale testing to see what site functionality didn't work for specific smart phones. What we found was a single issue with the iPhone (and iPad), no issues with Android or Quasi smart phones (LG ENV), and a TON of issues with Blackberry.

    So what we did was first tackle the small issue with PDF downloads on the iPhone with a simple user agent if else statement (if user agent has iPhone then do this otherwise do x).

    For blackberry phones we're going to look at doing a separate version of the site given how poorly they handle javascript and style overall.

    We're also going to be developing both an iPhone App and a Android app to offer to our users as well as an alternate method of browsing our major repository website.

    Truth is that for most smart phones you don't really need to change their experience to much, I know myself and based on a small survey we did, most smart phone users don't want a dumbed down browsing experience, they just want it to work. Just make sure the site works on their phones.

    And for those who want a more streamline experience you can look into a mobile app.

    Sorry if this is rambling not enough coffee this morning I think.

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  • RothgarrRothgarr Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    That's an awesome start, thanks.

    For us, the traffic is pretty respectable coming from iPhone. The next most used device is Blackberry (but its way behind iPhone).

    The question came up "is the blackberry so far behind because people in general just don't use them to browse websites? Or because the site isn't optimized for it?"

    So we're wondering if traffic from Blackberry would increase if we came up with an optimized version...

  • ransimransim Registered User regular
    edited April 2010
    Rothgarr wrote: »
    That's an awesome start, thanks.

    For us, the traffic is pretty respectable coming from iPhone. The next most used device is Blackberry (but its way behind iPhone).

    The question came up "is the blackberry so far behind because people in general just don't use them to browse websites? Or because the site isn't optimized for it?"

    So we're wondering if traffic from Blackberry would increase if we came up with an optimized version...

    Thats a hard question to answer. Its kinda the chicken and the egg question and really the best way to answer that is through user survey. One thing you can do, and I don't know how you have your analytics set up, is you can try breaking down your mobile users by their type.

    Such as for us, we have two different types of paid users (Institutions and Individual members), I'm able to break out mobile traffic down to see how many mobile users are paid users and how many aren't and if they're paid are they a institution or a individual.

    So for example, using the past months worth of data we had 620K visits and like 1.5 Mil page views. Of that 1,335 visits were iPhone users. Breaking that down from there of that 1,335, 91 were insitutional users and 23 were individual members.

    That means we had over 100 paid users trying to access the site. Sure its not a lot, but its some so that justifies adding the support.

    As far as surveying goes, we're lucky in that we have a... core group i guess within our user base who are volunteer/editors/reviewers. We surveyed them to see if they tried to access on a mobile device and if so which device. We found a good percentage had, or had tried, a good percentage of those were blackberry users unable to use the site.

    So even though our overall blackberry numbers are low, we found the numbers we had were inaccurate because:

    A. A lot of blackberry users disable javascript because it tends to run poorly. So our analytics wasn't capturing their visits.
    B. A lot of them were trying to access unsuccessfully and thus never tried again afterwards.

    Now for the blackberry I'd focus less on the device screen sizes and a bit more on optimizing it to work period. Reducing the amount of style, not relying on javascript/ajax events. What we're doing is loading a slightly modified version of the pages for blackberry users that doesn't rely on javascript and has had the css minimized. Basically using if else statements to say if the user agent is related to blackberry then don't load this, or load this instead, like we did for the iPhone PDF downloads.

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