The web in the palm of your hand
Having the full content and functionality of the web with you in any moment has an incredible potential. But browsing the web on handheld devices is often a frustrating experience.
Most web sites are designed with desktop and laptop computers in mind, where a large screen and a mouse and keyboard allow great graphic design and enable great usability. But these designs don’t work very well on a phone.
Although more and more important every day, mobile browsing is still a second-class citizen, and it shows.
Has the web been really adapted to handhelds?
Mobile browsing currently involves solutions such as viewing the page through a peephole, or using zoom to fit everything, or even arranging all content in a single column. This is trying to cram the existing design into the tiny screen of a phone: it just doesn’t work.
Art or science?
It’s like books and movies: they are just different media. Many stories can be great in both mediums, but they have to be told differently.
The strengths and weaknesses are not the same, and what people look for in each is also different. Keeping this in mind is key to creating a great experience on each medium.
The phone is a totally different medium, with its unique pros and cons, and with a different user interaction language. To be effective, browsing the web on the phone has to be as simple and intuitive as calling and texting. It needs to stop using computer idioms, and fully embrace the mew medium. The cursor, drop-down menus, multi-column layouts, zooming... are all "computerisms" that don’t work on a small device.
The mobile web has to be closer to using a phone menu than to mouse-based web browsing. Even if the conversion effort can be substantial, it’s necessary to provide this kind of interface if we are to make mobile web browsing accessible to everyone.
First, it’s necessary to analyze the site and its usage, distilling it to its core elements. Then, a new arrangement has to be done using native cell phone idioms. And finally, this design has to be applied to the way the web is presented on the different phones.