13. Style Sheets For Handhelds
A last minute decision to go to the movies, a need to settle a bet about the official language of Andorra, the phone number of the company to which you'll arrive fifteen minutes late for your meeting, a map to the company because the reason you're late is you can't find the place. The Mobile Web is upon us. We want information when we need it, not when we get home to our computers.
The Mobile Web's beginnings were marked by its limitations: a tiny screen, little memory, and slow transfer rates. WAP, the Wireless Application Protocol was developed to squeak out as much speed as possible. WML, or Wireless Markup Language, was designed to streamline sites so that they wouldn't tax those little browsers.
The Mobile Web's adolescence, where we are now, has seen telephones grow more powerfuloften with more memory than early desktop computersand users grow more demanding: access to a tiny fraction of the Web is no longer enough. In response, WAP has expanded to be able to handle a good deal of XHTML and CSS and thus regular Web pages. WML, meanwhile, is headed towards obsolescence (see page 25).
But like any good adolescent, the Mobile Web is unpredictable and frustratingly inconsistent. There are hundreds of handheld devices, sharing perhaps forty different browsers, which (surprise!) don't all support XHTML and CSS the same way. At this time, I recommend simplicity and patience as we wait for the Mobile Web to mature (and for the mini-browser wars to settle).
Figure 13.1. While it's hard to match the layout of a big screen browser, there are a number of techniques that will make your page more accessible and attractive to mobile visitors.