With the advent of technology like EDGE, GPRS and other more advanced web mobile browsers, users are increasingly surfing on their mobile phones, PDAs and other smaller devices which are easy to carry and can be used on-the-run. When you are designing your website you must keep this increasing set of people/visitors in mind.

Is it that easy though?

Since there are so many manufacturers of mobile devices, and every one of them manufactures so many different types of models with the internet browsing ability. Sadly, there is not much consistency among mobile web browsers. So it’s difficult for a website to work on all the various mobile phones/PDAs etc because of the different technology they use and the only way to check whether your website will work on these devices is to actually try and test running the website from these devices. However, with so many types of devices out there, that’s something that you can never do. Add to this that so many devices are introduced every few months.

In such a scenario what you can do is to make your site suitable/viewable for as many mobile browser platforms as possible. You cannot and should not try to design the website for a particular make/model. Some of the basic requirements would be:

A. Your website should be able to work without images

Many mobile browsers cannot display images- your site will not be able to work if it uses images to display vital information or to make a form work. You should test your web-site without images to check whether everything still works. If you’re using images on a form, you may consider replacing them with Javascript to insert images – as most mobile devices don’t support Javascript, this method should not create any problems for them.

B. Use less bandwidth

Most of the internet enabled mobile devices are access the web at very low speeds – making your webpage’s loading time critical to them. Without images, the loading time does reduce drastically but it still has to load the webpage’s source code before the browser can display it. Here, make sure that your source code is as compact as possible, not repeating itself or using long-drawn-out methods of doing simple things.

To do this, having a working knowledge of HTML can be handy. If you have written the code yourself it should not be much of a trouble then, but if you’ve used a WYSIWYG editor then you should try running the code through HTML Tidy, to see if you can reduce its size.

C. Be careful about Screen Width.

Mobile devices have a much smaller screen width than your computer monitor and so it’s very important to make sure that your website (without images) will work on very small screens. Avoid using tables as they will never work well on the mobile screen. Better compatibility with mobile devices is yet another reason to switch your site over to valid XHTML and CSS, instead of relying on old table hacks for layout.

Benefits of a mobile-website

If your website can work on most mobile devices successfully (which it will if all the above 3 guidelines are followed), then your website will be rewarded. There are not many websites which can be easily accessed through the mobile device and if your website makes it to the list chances are that users will remain loyal to it even when surfing on the computer, thus helping you get a whole lot of new audience. Also, mobile shopping is still quite raw, and there are people trying it out for the first time and starting to build loyalty – you will get long-term customers if you have the first mover advantage. People are also likely to pay for smaller downloads, since they can pay quickly and easily using their mobile phone instead of a credit card.

Even if your website is not selling any product, a mobile website can still be good promotion. Mobile users are likely to use your website to try to get your contact information, or directions to where you are. Anyone who’s taking the time, trouble and expense to look up your site on their phone is likely to be a loyal customer, and you want to make things easy for them.