Thoughts @

mobile web and open standards

This is another post on open standards, a concept that affects all aspects of the mobile experience, from the processors and operating systems to carriers and devices and finally to the end user. When creating web-based content, XHTML and CSS set standards for open sourced coding structure and help to create a consistent experience from desktop to mobile devices. Standards-compliant Scalable Vector Graphics (with a mobile variation known as the Mobile SVG Profiles – which include SVG Basic and SVG Tiny) is the standard for complex vector-based graphics and animation and are targeted to SVG-enabled third generation mobile phones which were announced in January 2006.

The following are the “languages” currently supported by the W3C and OMA for mobile authoring:

XHTML (eXtensible HyperText Markup Language) is the official web markup standard, replacing HTML and Wireless Application Protocol (WAP 1.0) for mobile devices. XHTML is compliant with XML to support specific tags and structure. Variations such as XHTML basic and XHTML mobile profile are used extensively in combination with CSS to control web-based presentation, structure and layout.

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) controls many of the visual elements on a web page, including font sizes, colors and formatting. Stylesheets are also used to control presentation and layout in conjunction with XHTML for both web and mobile web content. Variations include CSS2, CSS-basic, etc.

SVG-Tiny (Scalable Vector Graphics) is the standard for interactive and dynamic vector based graphics and animation on mobile devices. Based on XML, SVG-T allows for 2D graphics to be displayed and/or manipulated. Currently, SVG-Tiny is supported by many mobile browsers including Opera, Access, Openwave and Obigo. A current list (last updated in December 2005) is available showing SVG implementations is available (although confusing).

SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) uses XML to create a timeline describing how graphics, text and sound should be displayed or how they will play together in a sequence. SMIL was developed by REAL when they realized there was a way to add animation and synchronize sound and images without having actual video. SMIL allows for multiple versions (playing on different bandwidths) as well as multiple languages to be displayed. MMS is a stripped down version of SMIL, with very similar capabilities.

For the mobile designer, the topic of open standards using XHTML and CSS is not new, as this initiative has been floating around for several years in the web-development world, highly promoted for accessibility purposes as well as cross browser compatibility. Separation of content from presentation using style sheets goes one step further when creating web-based content for mobile devices. Ideally, the content would remain static on a web page, and a user agent would apply the correct style sheet for either PC-based browsing, or mobile web browsing. However each mobile browser has its own quirks and display habits that cause mobile designers to spend a lot of time tweaking code and testing on various emulators and devices. Mobile designers generally need to determine up front if they are coding for one specific browser type (for example, a demo on a Symbian-based smartphone, such as Sony Ericsson P910a) or if they are creating an experience that needs to work on a number of devices and browser types. Usually, one or more specific browsers and devices are targeted for development, and then ported to other devices.

Obviously, this is all changing so quickly, I cannot keep up. Please feel free to post any updates and/or email me with newer considerations!

Posted on January 18th, 2006 in Thoughts
Tagged as , , , , , ,
Written by Kelly Goto

2 Responses to “mobile web and open standards”


  1. Veiko says:

    Seems to me, that SVG does not yet work as promised. I animated my The Spoon series for mobiles, but still haven’t got them work on mobile devices. I wrote an article to my blog “Animating comics kind of movie clips to mobile devices using SVG” about the problems.

  2. chris says:

    I would like my site to usable on a pda or cell phone, currently the menu doesn’t show up as links.

    I was wondering if there is a way that I can put a div in the code that is ignored by all browsers but mobile browsers. I would like to just be able to put in some text only links.

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