W3C Mobile Web Best Practices

W3C recently published Mobile Web Best Practices, a set of guidelines for mobile web developers. Many of these guidelines are also applicable to downloadable mobile applications. Here are some key notes:
  • Test on as many real devices as possible. Testing in emulators is unacceptable.
  • Keep URIs short. It is difficult to type long URIs on a phone's 12-key keypad.
  • Make URI deliver similar content regardless of the browser.
  • Minimize the amount of navigation links at the top of a page. Use bottom navigation links instead. Screens are small, so don't waste it with navigation links instead of content. Data connections are slow, so don't make people wait for their content.
  • Try to keep content reachable within four request/response transactions.
  • If a link navigates to content that is large, let the user know before he clicks. Data connections are slow and screens are small--maybe the user doesn't want that content right now.
  • Don't auto-refresh a page unless the user can toggle it off.
  • Use server redirects instead of markup redirects. Data connections are slow, so don't make the mobile browser download a page only to be redirected to another page.
  • Keep total page size <= 10 to 20 kbytes for the Default Delivery Context.
  • It's OK for a page to scrool vertically or horizontally, but not both. The screen is small, and it's easy for the user to become disoriented with too much scrolling.
  • Use care with colors; devices often have crappy displays and it's difficult to distinguish colors.
  • Don't use frames. They might not be supported, or the might not be rendered where you expect them.
  • Avoid tables, and especially tables with fixed sizes that won't render well on different screen sizes.
  • Use ALT tags for images. Make pages usable in no-image mode.
  • Use style sheets for presentation control.
  • Don't send content the device can't render.
  • Don't rely on cookies.
  • Allow caching where possible.
  • Avoid text entry. Prefer multiple choice selection.
Also see W3C's Device Independence Principles for more good ideas.

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