The mobile browsing experience

August 4, 2010 by Zoran

Once upon a time I thought that the desktop browsing experience on the mobile phone is a possibility. And then I noticed…

The symptom

You have your 800×480 pixels screen and proudly want to surf some web while you wait in some waiting room. You enthusiastically fire up the browser and are hit with the familiar search page. You enter the search term all the while sensing that something is wrong, why does it take so long to enter that simple “Tardigrada company references 2010″ search term.

It must be my imagination you say to yourself and you go on. You land on the site and immediately frown. Why did they not make their font a little bigger. You have to be a sniper to read something without out of the bat (this all presumes you did not frown already because the site took a lot longer that you would like to load in the first place). And then it hits you…

The diagnosis

Of course the simple search phrase is difficult to enter when you have only limited input capabilities. Even if you have a full QWERTY keyboard on screen or a dedicated one you are only using your thumbs for entering letters. That simply can not beat all your ten fingers while grinding on the full desktop keyboard. And don’t get me started on the situations when you have to enter a lot of letters and numbers by alternating between the two (strong passwords anyone).

Of course the text is hard to read when your eye does not care about how many pixels is crammed in a square inch on your display. It only cares about the screen area. The eye is a great integrator and it cares about DPI only when it comes to the “smoothness” and “blockiness” of the image. Once you get past a certain amount of it you get diminishing returns. So once a digital image reaches a certain density of pixels per square it becomes analog to the eye. If you have a screen of a certain size and you put ever more pixels in it the images (and text) displayed on it will get more analog like but also smaller at the same time. Unless of course you bump up the resolution of the image and increase the size of the text.

The meat of the matter is that the desktop browsing experience on a mobile device does not exist (at least not until someone makes a small holographic projector or something that will project the image directly to your eye a reality). But that does not mean there is no…

The cure

There is a simple solution that leaves no side effects for the patient (I wish there are more of these in the medicinal world). Make a site optimized for mobile devices. This means detecting mobile devices and presenting them the content they can easily display to the enjoyment of their users. Meanwhile, the desktop site is unaffected and the original user has no cramps, red skin or ticks as a consequence.

These are only the most obvious problems plaguing mobile surfing on it’s way to greatness. We will discuss the less apparent ones (content relevant to the user on the move, pleasant surfing while on the move and a host of others) in a future post. By the way, our proposed solution cures these too.

If you have a better idea than mobile optimized web please let me know. I’d love to hear it.