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Looking at the web on mobile devices

Jun 29, 2009

Recently I finished some work building web widgets for mobile platforms using HTML4/5 W3C standards, with CSS2.1 compliance and Javascript, primarily jQuery.

Developing for the mobile platform is fraught with a unique problems that have not been experienced on the desktop for sometime. I hope to illuminate some of the issues and provide a brief discussion. I also intend to do a few posts later on to fill out some of the issues.

Lessons learnt:

  1. Effects are expensive. Use to enhance, not distract or annoy.
  2. Users will click again if something doesn’t change in the the next 300ms
  3. “Less is More1”, good clean simple solutions working incoherence produce better results.
  4. Standards are important.
  5. HTML5 Storage is a important step forward in integrating the web with users day to day experience on ‘computing devices’
  6. Javascript Libraries are important part of providing a unified interface and user experience.
  7. Efficient Javascript Engines/Browsers are the difference between increased uptake and continued ambivalence about the web as part of the everyday.
  8. The Cloud is about simplifying content, services and improving user experience.

Complex interactivity will distract from a good user experience, through decreasing code efficiency and user understanding. When the code is slow the natural responses and expected feed back loop needs to compensate for this by providing a state indicator. The idea of “doing more with less2” is appropriate here as it causes the user to have a better experience. Look at the effect that the simplicity of the interface for Google Searches has had on the world. Every time you search you don’t worry about whether you are going to be able to understand the results, you just do. The question that needs to be continually raised is, “Is there are simpler way of doing this?”

Standards, are the great bane of some proprietary companies, but they are the important to the web becoming everything it should be. What do I mean, well a user has increasing expectations that they will be able to use a website without being concerned about the browser or technology that needs to be supported. The generic user doesn’t care about technology they just want it to work. In a heterogeneous browser environment, standards give developers the means of providing a unified experience across platforms.

HTML5 Storage, can you remember what a cookie is? Offline Storage is an important step to providing the unified experience users want when they are on the web particularly on mobile devices where connection may not be guaranteed. It reduces server load and improves web responsiveness.

“Cloud Computing” is the buzzword right now, but if it doesn’t provide consumers with improved user experience it will become unimportant. On a mobile platform if it increases responsiveness and improves content access, delivery and manipulation, then they will use it. But weren’t we talking about the web?

1 Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

2 Buckminster Fuller

Are you looking for a web designer/developer?
I am currently looking to build upon the expertise I have in this space; where code efficiency, creative solutions to complex UI problems and stunning and elegant simplicity have driven the design and development. If you are looking for someone with these expertise in front-end/widget development please feel free to email: mail[at]

Posted by Thomas Cowell

Tags: technology, front end