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about context and the mobile web

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Posted on March 15th, 2006 in Thoughts
Tagged as No Tags
Written by Rudy De Waele

19 Responses to “about context and the mobile web”


  1. David Harper says:

    Rudy your conclusions are spot on.

    …and thanks for moving the conversation from merely the topic of transcoded “Blog” content to also include the obliteration of mobile phone-specific services.

  2. Jason says:

    Rudy, excellent article.

    I’m especially moved by your acknowledgment that mobile applications are not only about fitting online content into a smaller screen. While content layout was our main concern when we started, it’s obvious that there are other aspects to mobile browsing. Keypad navigation especially is something could benefit from.

    The fact that Google Mobile (and other transcoding applications) ignore some of these mobile-specific feature is disheartening. However, there are still pages out there that users may not be able to get to at all without these services.

    As to how bookmarks in should be displayed, we are looking into ways to give users more options. Users will obviously want to load directly, while they would appreciate Google’s transcoding on a site like We’re always open to suggestions.

    Thanks again for your insight.

  3. David Harper says:

    Jason - Not sure about but some of these guys with mobile specific sites/applications might object:

    Air Canada
    Austrian Airlines
    British Airways
    Continental Airlines
    Delta Airlines
    El Al
    Northwest Airlines
    Philippine Airlines
    Qantas Airways
    Sabre Travel
    Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS)
    Singapore Airlines
    Southwest Airlines
    United Airlines

    As far as your comment Re: “…ignore some of these mobile-specific feature is disheartening” - it’s more then just “disheartening”. I made this comment on MobHappy but it’s worth repeating here:

    “For tens of million worldwide their mobile phone is their one and only pipeline onto the Internet, to the knowledge it contains, and to each other. Their entire “connected” world is what they can publish and consume directly on their phone. By cavalierly denying access to the tools and communities they need is an injustice. By default, the flawed implementation of this transcoding service leaves people out, behind, and without a voice.”

  4. Kelly says:

    Context is everything regarding mobile strategy. Audience, context and (business + user) goals need to be defined prior to design, development and deployment of mobile content. Already the debate over SSR (small screen rendering) through Opera and Opera Mini versus customized mobile URLs (and redirects through short URLs) has begun.

    At the SxSW panel, we discussed being ‘mobile ready’ simply by being standards compliant and using CSS/XHTML along with CSS MP (mobile profile) and MP-UA (mobile profile user agents) are all you need at this time. I beg to differ. Each situation will have its own context and need, and it is true that many web sites would benefit from being ‘mobile friendly’ . I believe customized mobile sites targeting specific audiences, content and devices along with developing best practices for mobile UI and IA is a necessary starting point.

    … which is why this blog exists, to start the conversation and hopefully combine efforts industry-wide to gain some relevant and implementable results.

  5. Dean Maslic says:

    Spot on!
    It’s about putting the web content into the mobile context.
    Ive realised this sometime ago and I am currently tying to implement the best of both worlds: adding mobile context to exisitng web pages.
    So where google and others proxy the content based on a generic/global set of rules, I try to customise the rules for each page to bring out the best, most relevant content for the mobile user.

  6. Kevin Leong says:

    Rudy, brilliant articles.

    In 1977, the Top Gun Wingman project in UC Berkeley also tried to put web content into the mobile context. Wingman did not get any traction. Like Google Mobile, Wingman removed banners and scaled down graphics. No doubt, today we have CSS MP (mobile profile) and MP-UA (mobile profile user agents).

    It’s from my Wingman experience that I am currently focusing on rich mobile client. Why not, rich clients? AJAX is making significant inroads into web apps. We find it quite easy to develop Windows Mobile and J2ME apps calling Web Services.

  7. Barbara Ballard says:

    User context is one of the key reasons why the W3C’s so-called “Best Practices” for mobile web are not best. I wrote a quick overview of sources to derive context at http://www.littlespringsdesign.....e-context/.

  8. eIT says:

    On a side note, the dotMobi mTLD (mobile top level domain) has just been released and is in the sunrise registration period…the promise of dotMobi is to ensure that those sites with dotMobi extension will be tuned to mobile browsing…it is thus expected to make mobile browsing a far more enriching experience.

    One can expect a number of .mobi web sites - those that conform with standards for mobile browsing - to be online starting Oct 2006…while opinion is divided whether dotMobi will revolutionise mobile browsing or would be just another flash in the pan, when one considers that there are four mobile phones for every PC on earth, it certainly appears worth trying out a separate TLD

    More info on dotMobi can be found at - the Dot Mobi Directory, this site also plans to start a dotMobi directory soon

    Ec from IT, Software Database @

  9. mobiedave says:

    I absolutely concur that context is fundamental to the mobile UI. My primary device for surfing the Web is my lap-top. My phone is for immediate, specificall targetted, contextually relevant information that I need NOW. Clever icons and graphical ‘devices’ are no substitute for one click access to what I need. One device cannot be expected to do everything perfectly. However, I do want he device I have with me to serve the purpose I need when I need it… or am I being naive?

  10. Dick Carlson says:

    I’m experimenting with developing some mobile learning examples — and this post was really helpful in my understanding of why so much of what I’m doing doesn’t seem to work! The implementation has really been a great experience for me, and a steep learning curve.

    On the “contextual” side I can’t agree more. As an Instructional Designer, most of the “learning” content I see for the mobile space is either a talking head with huge video files, a long boring text file that goes on and on, or just a bunch of aimless links that don’t really display properly.

    Reminds me of the old joke — “What is two dead pigs and a tractor that won’t start?” “The Iowa State Fair.” (Well, it’s funny if you grew up in Minnesota.

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