Goin' mobile
August 9, 2010 10:52 AM   Subscribe

What makes a mobile site, well, mobile?

For the Apple users out there, what makes a good mobile website in the installed Safari browser? What functions and looks/template best work in those devices?

Likewise, what doesn't work? What sites do you see that are "mobile friendly" but really aren't when you start using them?

Any good example URLs would be appreciated.

Note: I'm not leaning toward downloadable aps nor WP blogs that seem to automatically have mobile versions, but more along the lines of custom web development.
posted by fijiwriter to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The most obvious answer (but this is sometimes missed): hover states. Most (all?) mobile experiences won't be able to provide the same sort of web-based hover experience, so just leave it out of the mobile version of your site.
posted by nitsuj at 10:56 AM on August 9, 2010

Mobile Web Design: Tips and Best Practices

There's also a whole big thing on Mobile Web Best Practices on w3.
posted by royalsong at 10:59 AM on August 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think Amazon's Kindle shop is a good mobile website (maybe it also works for the whole of Amazon products, not sure). It lets you search for books efficiently, and when you buy them, you can switch right to the Kindle app or keep shopping.

The thing I don't like about it is that it forces a truncated version of the Amazon experience on you, if you intend to use the mobile site. One of my tried-and-tested ways of finding new books is to search through a reviewer's reviews, and the mobile site doesn't even let you see reviewers' names. If I were a top reviewer, this would piss me off.

Of course, they let you switch to the normal Amazon site at any time, which I'd guess is partly to act as a pressure-release for frustrated shoppers. However, this is pretty annoying on a small device.

So, "do less and do it well" is a good idea but will likely piss off people who are using the site in less-than-ordinary ways.

I've also seen mobile apps that are well-intentioned but not really mobile-friendly. Check out the Hahn Winery app on the iPhone; several of its key features redirect you to the non-mobile-friendly main website, last I checked. That's a pretty annoying thing to do, but I guess they ran out of time or budget or something.
posted by circular at 11:11 AM on August 9, 2010

I just want to add one thing, and that is that if you're developing for the iPhone specifically, one really important thing to remember is to properly configure the viewport (see also here). I don't know if other phones implement this feature, but it really improves mobile safari sites by preventing the zoom-out.
posted by gkhan at 11:12 AM on August 9, 2010

Why only iPhones and Safari?

foursquare's mobile site is an absolute nightmare. Type is minuscule and it is an insult to those of us that don't have phones with OSes that have dedicated 4sq apps. IMO a mobile site should emulate exactly, or as close to exactly, what's offered on iPhone (or BB or Android or whatever) apps. Good example: Aside from the useless and stupid shake-to-select nonsense, m.urbanspoon.com and the urbanspoon IOS app are pretty much identical. This is as it should be. I should not feel like a second-class user because I've chosen a Symbian (or Winmo or whatever) device. so if you want a good mobile site, make it emulate an app.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:04 PM on August 9, 2010

If you've read the W3 mobile web best practices you might also want to take a look at the dotMobi Mobile Web Developer's Guide. It predates a lot of the more fun iPhone/Android stuff but will probably still be helpful for the other ~75% of smartphones sold worldwide.
posted by robertc at 4:22 PM on August 9, 2010

If you're going to reroute mobile users to the mobile site automatically, always send them to the mobile version of the link they followed instead of to the homepage. It's surprising how many big sites make this obnoxious mistake. Also, always give users an option to view the full version of the site. Most smartphone browsers are competent enough to handle them if the user wants to access advanced functions.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:35 PM on August 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

http://m.check.in is a great mobile website that acts like an app. I use this instead of the foursquare/gowalla native apps.

(my main experience is on Android, so not safari, but still a a webkit based browser)
posted by jrishel at 9:47 AM on August 10, 2010

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