educational

Mobile Accessibility

Philip Wylie
Editor's note: One of the hottest topics at Internext was the move to mobile delivery platforms as the next phase in the roll out of high tech adult entertainment. With leading companies like AEBN and Python at the forefront, and a cadre of mainstream wireless tech companies seeking ways to safely deliver and monetize our industry's products and services, you can be sure that the buzz for 2005 will be on the subject of wireless content integration. Here's a brief look at some basic usability issues:

Throughout 2004 the number of web enabled portable devices boomed. By "portable devices" I mean PDAs and smart phones. What does this mean for you? Well it depends whether or not you care about your visitor's experience at your site.

Nokia, Vodafone, Microsoft and others have already applied to ICANN for the new TLD (Top Level Domain) .mobi. If the new TLD is accepted, not only will this create hundreds more "domain for sale" sites, but it will also help mobile users find optimized pages.

When a website optimized for a desktop computer is viewed on a small screen, the horizontal scrollbars are usually stretched by the header and footer. Inevitably, this means the textual content area is also stretched. "Fit to screen" on Pocket PCs shrinks images on the page and attempts to display the text on one screen without horizontal scrollbars.

There is no need to create a whole new site dedicated for mobile users, as not only would that be time consuming, but it is also unnecessary, due to mobile browsers being able to render most code without problems. Simply make your new site with a more logical, clean appearance. You should avoid relying on drop down menus for navigation as they use "mouse over" and JavaScript which doesn't necessarily work very well on mobile platforms.

When building your website I recommend that you use a top header with a horizontal menu underneath - preferably not made from images as the user may have selected not to view images. If you must use images for navigation, remember to add ALT tags. If your content area uses columns be sure that the main contents are on the left. The "fit to screen" function will move the text to the left hand side saving the visitor from having to scroll. The footer should contain a link to the top of the page in the form of an anchor tag. A link to your sitemap is also important as it allows visitors to reach the information they want quickly.

Optimize your images as usual in GIF/JPEG formats. Testing your website is vital before you fully launch to the public: try viewing your site with a number of different devices. If the browser is able, use "fit to screen" and view the page without displaying images. It doesn't have to be perfect, so long as you can easily navigate all pages and view the content without scrolling.

Philip Wylie is the CEO of PWnet, a company offering web solutions to all types of business.

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