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The mobile web – Part 1: The real mobile web and the mobileOK validator

Alex Christie

18 January 2010

One of the biggest misunderstandings most people have when talking about the mobile web, is that they usually assume that it refers to the web when viewed through a smart-phone device, such as an iPhone. But this is not the case. In fact just because a website looks good on an iPhone, does not necessarily mean it is mobile-friendly.

An iPhone renders a page much in the same way your usual desktop/laptop browser would. The mobile web really refers to browsing the web using a standard web-capable mobile phone. So when building for the mobile web, it is essential that a standard mobile phone is used for testing and not a highly sophisticated smart-phone. If a standard web-capable mobile phone is not available, then there are a range of web-based emulators you can use such as dot mobi or Opera Mini, to test your pages on.

A few mobile web facts

Source: An Introduction to W3C’s Mobile Web Best Practices (An online course run by the W3C)

Fact 1:

According to estimates by Nokia, 1.7 of the 2.7 billion mobile phones in circulation in 2007 had mobile browsing capabilities.

Putting this in perspective: With a world population of 6.7 billion humans and assuming that each phone with a mobile browser is owned by a different person (which is a bit optimistic, since many people own more than one mobile phone these days), this would mean that 25% of the world’s population have access to a mobile phone with a browser.

Fact 2:

Here are the expected annual growth rates for the period 2005-2010 in terms of active users for a number of mobile services:

* Pure subscriber growth: 15%
* Advertising: 16%
* Ringtones and Icons: 17%
* Entertainment and Media: 20%
* Browsing: 30%

(Source: Nokia)

Fact 3:

In its report “State of the Mobile Web: First Quarter, 2008″, Opera reports more than 2.4 billion page views through Opera Mini for March 2008.

Fact 4:

In a report, the audience measurement company Nielsen (known for their TV “Nielsen ratings”) reports that for many “leading Internet sites”, an average of 13% of users access the site only from their mobile device (data appears to be for the US for Q4 2007).

Mobile-only use varies by category of the site – here is the percentage of mobile-only users per category:

1. Weather: 22%
2. Entertainment: 22%
3. Games: 15%
4. Music: 15%
5. Email: 11%
6. Sports: 10%
7. Business/Finance: 4%
8. Social Networking: 3%
9. Search: 2%
10. Shopping/Auctions: 1%

Fact 5:

In India, “the number of people using their mobile handsets to access the web is now over four times those using a PC”.

Source: Net user base shrinks as Indians go mobile, India Times.

Fact 6:

According to the BBC reportBBC Wap use flourishing in Africa“, international WAP users of the BBC site were distributed as follows on different countries:

* Israel: 2%
* Singapore: 4%
* Uganda: 7%
* Jamaica: 7%
* South Africa: 19%
* Nigeria: 61%
* USA: not reported
* Canada: not reported

So how can you check how mobile friendly your website is?

The W3C (the governing body responsible for web standards) has the online mobileOK checker, where you can enter the URI of any web page to validate. The webpage is then given a mark out of 100 – indicating how mobile-friendly the page is. Feedback is also given through the form of error and warning messages, with some recommendations or amendments required to gain a 100% approval rating. The same way that the W3C Html/Xhtml and CSS validators would – which need to be used, before even attempting to pass the mobileOk checker.

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