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Upcoming… a mobile view

October 13th, 2009 by Erick Beck

We got a new student worker a few weeks ago.  When we first hired him, his primary focus of interest was building apps for the Blackberry and iPhone.  This was designed to fit in with and help promote the TAMUMobile iPhone apps that were published by Terribly Clever last month.  The more I thought about it, though, the more convinced I became that we were on the wrong track.  We shouldn’t be building one set of apps for each phone and then another for the next phone, we should be creating one mobile web view that is accessible from all (within reason anyway) smart phones.

We experimented with a few things for about two weeks prior to leaving for the HighEdWeb conference, and the biggest thing we learned was that developing for the phone is going to be as bad as the bad-0l-days of the browser wars.  There is no standard of how html, javascript, or CSS is supported.  Each phone renders the same code differently, and only a few correctly.

When going to the conference I purposefully left my laptop at home and tried to get around with only my Blackberry Curve.  Not an impossible situation – I have Opera Mini installed so I can see most sites — if I don’t mind one-word columns, missing blocks of content where a flash box is supposed to be, or arbitrary contend styled with CSS for the desktop which completely breaks the page when viewed from the phone.  Combine this with cellular-based download speeds and I’d rarely use the Internet if this was the only way I could connect.

I’m convinced that the future of the web is mobile, but I’m equally convinced that we have a long way to go to make it usable.  Follow along at http://m-test.tamu.edu/ as we try different techniques, technologies, and applications to bring the university web presence to the mobile device.  Feel free to send us comments and suggestions, I think this will be an ongoing initiative for easily the next several years.

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009 Mobile Web
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4 Comments to Upcoming… a mobile view

  1. You might check out http://m.acu.edu. This is a really solid implementation of mobile.

  2. Brandon on October 13th, 2009
  3. Actually, that is one of the first sites we looked at, and not to be contrary but it is also one of the best examples we found of how NOT to do it. Try their site in anything but an iPhone or Safari…it doesn’t work. Why? Because they give every student on their campus an iPhone and develop exclusively for the Mac platform. If you aren’t onboard with that you’re out of luck, they don’t do graceful degradation. That’s exactly the opposite of what we want to do. We want to provide a quality (quality not necessarily meaning equal) experience no matter which phone you use. If you have an iPhone then yes we’ll give you all the bells and whistles, but if you have a 2-year-old Razor we want you to at least be able to get the content even if not the effects.

  4. Erick on October 14th, 2009
  5. […] Broad Spectrum of Mobile Device Capabilities October 20th, 2009 by jcarouth As Erick mentioned, we are diligently working on a solution that is friendly to the entire spectrum of mobile devices. […]

  6. The Broad Spectrum of Mobile Device Capabilities | Aggie Webmasters on October 20th, 2009
  7. I just tried out the mobile site on my Samsung Omnia(i910) using opera 9.5. My phone isn’t as wide as the iPhone so the mobile site gets cut off on the right edge. Other than that it works the same as when I use the site in Firefox.

    I just found this blog and I’m really excited that someone is investing time into WinMo support, keep up the good work.

  8. Brandon on November 6th, 2009

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