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How to optimize your web based software application for the mobile web August 7, 2011

Posted by HubTechInsider in Mobile Software Applications, Product Management, Project Management.
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The mobile web is where the action is in 2011.  We have all seen the polls and the statistics: people are spending more and more time accessing the web through their mobile smartphones and mobile tablet computers. The mobile Web grew 110 percent in the U.S. last year and 148 percent worldwide as measured by growth in pageviews.

Including devices such as the Kindle, the iPhone and other smartphones, web-enabled tablets, GPS systems, video games and wireless home appliances, the growth of the mobile web has been exponential — and we’re still just at the beginning of this cycle. Morgan Stanley’s analysts believe that, based on the current rate of change and adoption, the mobile web will be bigger than desktop Internet use by 2015. The proliferation of better devices and the availability of better data coverage are two trends driving growth; having better services and smaller, cheaper devices has led to a huge explosion in mobile technology that far outpaces the growth of any other computing cycle.

Global 3G penetration is expected to hit 21% this year. In Japan, where the U.S. looks to find its mobile roadmap for the future, 96% of mobile subscribers already have 3G coverage. In Western Europe, the penetration is around 54%, just slightly above 46% in the U.S. In developing and/or economically depressed areas, including the Middle East, Africa, parts of Asia, Eastern Europe and South America, 3G penetration is still in the single digits. 3G access is a key point in the success of the mobile web, providing very usable surfing speeds for mobile web usage.

In addition, mobile e-commerce is ramping up faster than online e-commerce, now making up 4% of total retail sales. In certain categories, such as computers, consumer electronics, music, movies, tickets, video games and books, online sales account for between 45% and 20% of the total retail market. Japan’s Rakuten shows how the mobile share of e-commerce is growing as well, from 10% of e-commerce in 2006 to nearly 20% now.

Video now accounts for 69% of mobile data traffic, and the overlap between mobile users and social web users continues to grow; more and more users are accessing the social web from a mobile device. Real-time technology and location-based services are expected to drive mobile retail, and a very interesting fact is that the average iPhone user only spends 45% of his on-device time making voice calls.

Some more mobile web usage statistics and facts:

  • More people have mobile phones than Internet-connected PCs (4 billion) 

  • SMS penetration ~50% and fully mainstream (82% of users <24 y.o.)

  • 82 million Americans can recall seeing advertising on their phone over last 3 mos. (approx. 30% of 270m adult phone users)

  • 25% of phone users (65 mm) are accessing the mobile web but 80% of iPhone users are

  • 40% of Twitter users use the Internet on their phones (76% if you include WiFi) (Pew)

  • Internet Advertising Bureau survey found that 62 percent of agencies, media planners and advertisers believe mobile ad spending will continue to grow and emerge in marketing budgets

  • Mobile device is increasingly becoming small, portable PC experience with an Internet browser experience similar to that of 2000/2001 (just diff’t form factor)

  • In 2007, eMarketer reports that US advertisers spent $900 million on mobile, and double in 2008 to $1.7 billion

  • 21 million iPhones + ~20 million iPod Touches = 40-45million iPod-like devices

  • 50,000 apps from iTunes App Store and Nokia, RIM, MSFT and others now w app stores; 1 billion+ app downloads to date

  • 70% of people sleep with their mobile phones (Zumobi)

  • More than 60 million mobile views per month for New York Times; one of 4 apps pre-loaded on the Palm Pre

  • Joseph Porus of Harris Interactive: “”Mobility could be recession-proof and be one of the strongest ways of effectively marketing in tough economic times”

  • 35% of mobile advertising campaigns cost less than $10,000 (Forrester)

Mobile Device Product Categories & Feature Sets

There are four primary mobile device product categories in widespread use today, and each of these four mobile device product categories is typically configured by the device manufacturers with a certain base set of features and functionality. The four mobile device product categories, listed with their typical bandwidth usage per month, are:

  1. Feature Phones:  Feature Phones such as the Motorola Razr are used primarily to make calls, and they consume little bandwidth even for web activities because they have stripped-down web browsers. Feature phones and their users tend to consume around 100 Megabytes of data downloads a month, using 4 MB of voice calls an hour, and 4 to 5 MB of web browsing per hour.

  2. Smartphones: Smartphones such as Research in Motion’s popular Blackberry are used for phone calls, email, and light web browsing. Smartphones and their users tend to consume around 185 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, utilizing 4 MB per hour for voice calls, and 4 to 5 MB of web browsing.

  3. Superphones: Superphones are advanced smartphones, including Apple’s iPhone and Motorola’s Droid, that make it easy for people to surf the web and watch online videos, leading to much higher bandwidth use. Superphones and their users tend to consume around 560 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, using 4 MB per hour for voice calls, 40 MB per hour for web browsing, 60 MB per hour for internet radio, and 200 MB per hour for YouTube videos.

  4. Tablet Computers: Tablet computers such as Apple’s newly unveiled iPad are likely to send data use even higher. The iPad will chew up even more bandwidth than the iPhone because of its larger screen. Tablet computer and iPad users tend to consume 800 to 1,000 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, using 50 to 60 MB per hour for web browsing, 60 MB per hour for internet radio, and 300 to 400 MB per hour for YouTube videos.

If your web based application or site is not optimized for the mobile web, you are falling behind and losing out on transaction revenue, sales, data, customers: you name it.

There are many methods and techniques that can be used to optimize your web based application or site for the mobile web. In this article I will describe how I optimized a commercial b2c ecommerce application for the mobile web, and then I will go into more details as to how you can use the same techniques I used on the http://www.tshirtnow.net mobile site and also how you can use different techniques to optimize your own web-based mobile application or site.

For the tshirtnow.net mobile site, I utilized a technique to present a mobile-optimized version of the tshirtnow.net web site to mobile browser users such as those surfing the web site on an iPhone, iPad, or Android mobile phone, and the regular version of the tshirtnow.net web site to users who were accessing the web-based b2c tshirtnow.net ecommerce application from regular web browsers on a desktop or laptop computer with a browser like Google Chrome or Microsoft Internet Explorer.

But using a special CSS stylesheet that is optimized for mobile browsers, along with the reglar tshirtnow.net CSS stylesheet, we are able to automatically detect what type of mobile browser platform the user is currently accessing the tshirtnow.net web site with. Using the CSS information contained in the tshirtnow.net mobile cascading style sheet (CSS), we are able to render the exact same html content which represents the different pages on the site such as product detail pages, order status pages, and the home page with different formating and styles, and even content sections, all just by using CSS.

The advantages of this technique are rather obvious. First of all, there is no need to recreate dozens or even hundreds of static html content pages, as the exact same content and pages can be cleverly re-purposed simply by providing for planned degradation of the user’s web experience according to what type of mobile device and mobile browser platform they are currently using.

Secondly, the use of CSS to provide a mobile optimized experience allows for the use of special CSS tags and techniques which can provide iPhone and iPad iOS orientation (landscape or portrait) and touch detection, intelligent web page scaling, special mobile OS (iPhone, iPad iOS or Android, Blackberry, HP WebOS) controls and rich media player capabilities, and phone/web integrated telephony. I will go into much more detail about some of these advanced CSS capabilities and I will provide more information about them as well as links to more resources on the web later in this article.

I encourage readers of this article who have not already done so, to read my previous article, a Glossary of mobile Web Terminology, for references to some of the terms I will use throughout this article. Knowing mobile web terminology will also assist you in creating wireframes and mockups for mobile web applications, and will be a great boon to your mobile application software specifications as well.

The tshirtnow.net mobile web site

For tshirtnow.net, I utilized a mobile optimized CSS style sheet. It detects which type of browser platofrm the user is accessing the tshirtnow.net web site with, and then serves that user either the regular tshirtnow.net home page, or the mobile optimized tshirtnow.net home page. Here is what most users see when they access the tshirtnow.net web site with a normal desktop computer browser:

And here is what a user accessing the same tshirtnow.net home page using mobile safari on an Apple iPhone would see:

The mobile version of the tshirtnow.net home page, as seen on an Apple iPhone (iOS)

As you can see, iPhone users see a gently degraded web page, which contains many of the most important, but not nearly all, of the controls, links, graphics and content of the normal tshirtnow.net home page. This mobile-specific version of the exact same web page is presented to the user not though the use of another web page, but simply through the use of the mobile-optimized style sheet.

Here is another example of how the tshirtnow.net b2c ecommerce web application is able to detect a mobile browser user and serve up content optimized for mobile from the exact same html page. Here is what the order status page looks like to a user accessing the tshirtnow.net web site from a regular desktop computer browser like Microsoft Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox:

And here is what a user accessing the same tshirtnow.net order status page using mobile safari on an Apple iPhone would see:

The mobile version of the tshirtnow.net order status page (iOS)

You can see that not only has the check order status button been dynamically resized in order to accomodate the smaller screen width of the iPhone mobile safari browser, but also that the hairline css curved corners border around the order number and email address input form fields has been resized too. All of this dynamic width modification, including the button graphic itself, which is rendered using standards-based css, happens on the fly from one set of html pages.

If you perform platform-specific css coding into your mobile stylesheet, which I will demonstrate how to do later in this article, then you can take advantage of such features as iOS iPad and iPhone orientation detection and dynamic adjustment, touch interface enhancements, and CTI, or Computer Telephony Integration features like click-to-call:

iOS platform-specific controls like this iPhone selection dial are supported natively through CSS

A typical b2b or b2c web-based ecommerce application that provides content pages that are driven by databases and displaying and presenting the results of database queries can produce thousands of individual web pages. To provide a mobile-optimized version of each of these pages is a prohibitively expensive and time-consuming endeavor that is beyond the performance envelope of most software development organizations.

The skillset needed to perform heavy CSS manipulations and platform-specific mobile optimizations may not be present on your current software development team. J2ee and other types of system and application software programmers may not have the requisite ability to manipulate and create a mobile optimized CSS stylesheet, and the necessary experience required to effectively develop and test platform-specific and progressively enhanced mobile CSS may not be present on your current team.

By utilizing a mobile CSS stylesheet to render the same content pages, you have provided a way to render those thousands of dynamic, database-driven web pages on the fly, and ready for your mobile web users. For example, here is one of the many thousands of product detail pages on the tshirtnow.net ecommerce site, as it would appear to a normal desktop web browser:

And here is what a user accessing the same srv tshirt product detail page using mobile safari on an Apple iPhone would see:

A mobile version of a tshirtnow.net tshirt product page (iOS)

You can see that the mobile version of the tshirtnow.net product detail page contains less content, and the content that is displayed on the mobile version of the product detail page is in a different location than the content on the regular, desktop browser version of the tshirtnow.net product detail page. All of this is performed not through HTML manipulations or server side includes, but is instead accomplished exclusively through the use of CSS.

Product detail page features such as tags are specially presented on Apple iPhone iOS through CSS

Because of this use of CSS to render mobile versions of the same html content pages, all scenarios have been accounted for, opening up the entire tshirtnow.net web site, all products, all static html content pages, all dynamic interaction controls such as search engines and results pages, are made available to mobile web browsers using this technique.

If instead the decision had been made to create unique, static html pages for mobile browsers, then a detection mechanism such as WURL or user-agent string detection would have had to have been employed in order to serve up unique html pages. The program to create many thousands of unique pages for all of the major functions, plus a unique mobile template for all of the product detail pages, would have been extremely cost and resource intensive.

Tips for Handheld CSS Style Sheets

Handheld media stylesheets should be as small and compact as possible because of download time.

What can you do to simplify your site and make it more usable in mobiles? First, eliminate some of these problematic items from mobile display.

  • Eliminate floats and frames

  • Eliminate columns – one column with the content first is the best option

  • Eliminate scripted effects such as popups or pop out menus in favor of plain old HTML and simple text menus

  • Eliminate decorative images that slow down the loading process. Use display:none to remove anything that isn’t absolutely necessary, such as links to external resources. Remember, however, that devices that don’t understand CSS won’t do anything withdisplay: none. Any essential images need to be reworked for the small screen and the width and height attributes need to be included in the HTML.

  • Eliminate nested tables and layout tables. If you have tabular data, consider finding a way to present it in a linearized alternate display.

Once you’ve simplified through elimination, start building the rules you need to add. Consider these ideas.

  • If you’re not already using relative measures, switch to ems or percentages rather than pixels

  • Reduce margins, paddings and borders to suit the small screen

  • Use smaller font sizes for headings and paragraph text

  • If you have a long navigation list at the start of the page, add a skip to main content link, or move the links to the end of document flow. Keep the number of clicks required to get to content as minimal as humanly possible. Without a mouse or keyboard, most mobile users have to click laboriously through any top navigation.

  • Make sure your color combinations provide good contrast between foreground and background colors, particularly for devices with fewer color options.

Sample Handheld CSS Stylesheet


/* mobile styles */

@media handheld {

html, body {

font: 12px/15px sans-serif;

background: #fff;

padding: 3px;

color: #000;

margin: 0;

}

#sidebar, #footer {

display: none;

}

h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6 {

font-weight: normal;

}

#content img {

max-width: 250px;

}

.center {

width: 100%; !important;

text-align: center;

}

a:link, a:visited {

text-decoration: underline;

color: #0000CC;

}

a:hover, a:active {

text-decoration: underline;

color: #660066;

}

}

/* iPhone-specific styles */

@media only screen and (max-device-width: 480px) {

html {

-webkit-text-size-adjust: none;

}

}

Resources for testing your mobile applications

As with any other type of Web design, testing is a big part of the process. However, testing websites for mobile devices brings additional challenges, and fortunately, there are some tools available that were created especially for these purposes:

Opera Mini Browser Simulator

http://www.opera.com/mobile/demo/

The Opera Web browser comes with a feature that is of use to QA – the Opera Small Screen Renderer.

This tool can be used to test any Web page and see how it will look in a tiny window like on a cell phone. To use it:

 Download the latest version of Opera.

    1. Go to the page you want to test.
    2. Hit Shift-F11.
      The screen will switch to a narrow version of the page.
    3. When you’re done testing, hit Shift-F11 to toggle back to normal view.

Apple iPhone Safari Debugging and Testing Tips & Instructions:

http://developer.apple.com/safari/library/documentation/AppleApplications/Reference/SafariWebContent/DebuggingSafarioniPhoneContent/DebuggingSafarioniPhoneContent.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/TP40006515-SW1

 W3C mobileOK Checker:

http://validator.w3.org/mobile/

ready.mobi mobile site automated checker & reporting tool:

Ready.mobi

 Blackberry Device Simulators:

http://na.blackberry.com/eng/developers/resources/simulators.jsp

 Nokia Mobile Phone Simulator:

http://mtld.mobi/emulator.php?emulator=nokiaN70&webaddress=mtld.mobi

OpenWave Phone Simulator:

http://developer.openwave.com/dvl/tools_and_sdk/phone_simulator/

iPhoney iPhone Simulator for OS X:

http://www.marketcircle.com/iphoney/

 How to setup desktop Safari on Windows and OS X to emulate iPad and iPhone:

http://developer.apple.com/safari/library/technotes/tn2010/tn2262.html

 Mobile Phone Web-based Emulator:

http://emulator.mtld.mobi/emulator.php?emulator=sonyK750&webaddress=stepforth.mobi

 BrowserCam Cross-Browser Device Screen Captures:

(Instantly see mobile pages in any browser on device operating systems)

http://www.browsercam.com/Default2.aspx

W3C Mobile Test Harness:

http://www.w3.org/2007/03/mth/harness

 Cameron Moll’s Mobile HTML & CSS Styling Test Pages:

http://cameronmoll.com/articles/mobile/mkp/

Patrick Griffith’s Handheld Media Test Page (Test to see if handheld device interprets media=”handheld”):

http://htmldog.com/test/handheld.html

 Good, General Mobile Web Testing Resources Available Here:

http://carsonified.com/blog/mobile/make-your-site-mobile-friendly/

Apple iPhone / iPad / iOS Resources

Apple iPhone Developer Center:

http://developer.apple.com/iphone/index.action

 iUI Interface Library / Framework Documentation:

http://code.google.com/p/iui/

http://www.k10design.net/articles/iui/

 iPhone Web HTML Application Home Screen Icons, Viewport Adjustments:

http://www.hanselman.com/blog/MakeYourWebsiteMobileAndIPhoneFriendlyAddHomeScreenIPhoneIconsAndAdjustTheViewPort.aspx

 Touch Interface Detection:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/2607248/optimize-website-for-touch-devices

 iPad Orientation Detection CSS:

http://catharsis.tumblr.com/post/501657271/ipad-orientation-css-revised

http://www.cloudfour.com/ipad-orientation-css/

http://www.cloudfour.com/ipad-css/

 Preparing Your Web Content for iPad:

http://developer.apple.com/safari/library/technotes/tn2010/tn2262.html

iPad CSS How To:

http://thomasmaier.me/2010/03/howto-css-for-the-ipad/

 Building an iPhone App using jQTouch & PhoneGap, without Objective-C:

http://net.tutsplus.com/tutorials/html-css-techniques/the-easiest-way-to-build-your-first-iphone-app/

http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/01/ipad-opportunities-for-web-dev.html

http://oreilly.com/catalog/9780596805784/

Blackberry Developer Zone:

http://na.blackberry.com/eng/developers/

Blackberry Browsers Stylesheet and CSS Support Information:

http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/deliverables/11844/Feature_CSS_512751_11.jsp

How to target the Blackberry browser:

http://stackoverflow.com/questions/913040/how-to-target-the-blackberry-browser

Blackberry Device Simulators:

http://na.blackberry.com/eng/developers/resources/simulators.jsp

 RIM Blackberry Developers Reference Guide: Blackberry Browser HTML, CSS and JS Information:

http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/subcategories/?userType=21&category=BlackBerry%20Browser

 RIM Blackberry Browser CSS Reference Guide:

http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/deliverables/5683/CSS_Reference.pdf

RIM Blackberry Browser Content Design Guidelines:

http://docs.blackberry.com/en/developers/deliverables/4305/BlackBerry_Browser-4.6.0-US.pdf

In the BlackBerry Documentation for Developers, there is a documentation for the BlackBerry Browser, including CSS Reference – BlackBerry Browser. There is no specific mention of CSS3, but that document lists supported CSS properties.

There is also a BlackBerry Widget web standards support page that states 4.7.1 and 5.0 have partial support for CSS 3 color and full support for CSS 3 marquee, CSS 3 media queries, CSS 3 namespaces and CSS 3 selectors.

Opera Mini 5 Optimization:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/opera-mini-5-beta-developers/#optimizing

Opera Mini Browser-based Simulator:

http://www.opera.com/mobile/demo/

How to serve the right content to mobile browsers:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/how-to-serve-the-right-content-to-mobile/

 W3C CCS3 Media Queries Specification:

http://www.w3.org/TR/css3-mediaqueries/

 Mobile Device Support through JavaScript & CCS Media Queries:

http://floggingenglish.com/2009/06/18/mobile-device-support-through-javascript-and-css/

 Safe Cross-Platform, Cross-Device Media Queries:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/safe-media-queries/

HTML & CSS For Mobiles:

http://www.htmldog.com/ptg/archives/000055.php

Mobile CSS is a reality:

http://www.htmldog.com/ptg/archives/000056.php

CSS Discuss: Handheld Style Sheets:

http://css-discuss.incutio.com/wiki/Handheld_Stylesheets

Mobile Style Guides:

http://patterns.design4mobile.com/index.php/Mobile_Style_Guides_-_Screen_Design,_Part_1

You can try acid3.acidtests.org and http://www.css3.info/selectors-test/test.html on the respective browsers to check some compatibility, but that may not be an exact determining factor of full compatibility. However I don’t think any of the mobile browsers currently fully support CSS3.

—————————-

Both iPhone and Android systems use WebKit as the rendering engine in their mobile browsers. I believe Blackberry are moving to Webkit as well at some point. This engine has some of the best support for parts of CSS 3 available at the moment, as well as quite a lot of proprietary extensions.

I would recommend researching what is available in WebKit, and then testing.

A great resource for support tables is http://www.quirksmode.org where PPK is doing more and more mobile browser testing to answer just these kind of questions.

http://www.russellbeattie.com/blog/css3-and-the-death-of-handheld-stylesheets

An Introduction to the Mobile Web:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/introduction-to-the-mobile-web/

The Mobile Phone Directory –  Phone Specifications, Glossary of Terms:

http://www.mobile-phone-directory.org/

Mobile Web Glossary from the BBC:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mobile/web/glossary.shtml?d

WURFL — Wireless Universal Resource File —  (SourceForge):

http://wurfl.sourceforge.net/

WURFL API Intro:

http://wurfl.sourceforge.net/newapi/

WURFL Java API:

http://wurfl.sourceforge.net/njava/

Wikipedia Entry – Microbrowser:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microbrowser

Wikipedia Entry – Mobile Phone:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phone

Cameron Moll’s Mobile Web Design Series:

Part 1: http://www.cameronmoll.com/archives/000415.html

Part 2: http://www.cameronmoll.com/archives/000428.html

Part 3: http://www.cameronmoll.com/archives/000577.html

Making Small Devices Look Great:

http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/making-small-devices-look-great/

The Pros and Cons of Developing a Mobile Version of Your Website:

http://www.dirjournal.com/articles/mobile-search-the-pro-and-cons-of-developing-a-mobile-version-of-your-website/

Bulletproof Mobile Device Detection:

http://www.bushidodesigns.net/blog/mobile-device-detection-css-without-user-agent/

A List Apart: “Return of the Handheld Stylesheet”:

http://www.alistapart.com/articles/return-of-the-mobile-stylesheet

A List Apart: “Put Your Content in My Pocket” (iPhone information):

http://www.alistapart.com/articles/putyourcontentinmypocket/

A List Apart: “Understanding Progressive Enhancement”:

http://www.alistapart.com/articles/understandingprogressiveenhancement/

Progressive Enhancement for Mobile Media Queries:

http://www.iheni.com/progressive-enhancement-for-mobile-media-queries/

Server-Side Scripting for Bulk Mobile Site Page Re-engineering:

http://www.mikeindustries.com/blog/archive/2005/07/make-your-site-mobile-friendly

Mobile Browser / Mobile Web Usage Statistics

http://gs.statcounter.com/#mobile_browser-ww-monthly-200903-201004

http://www.upsdell.com/BrowserNews/stat_trends.htm

http://www.webdevelopersnotes.com/articles/mobile-web-browser-usage-statistics.php

http://developer.apple.com/safari/library/technotes/tn2010/tn2262.html

http://johannburkard.de/blog/www/mobile/mobile-browser-statistics-webkit-on-the-rise-opera-losing-share.html

http://moconews.net/article/419-the-top-mobile-browsers-are-not-what-you-think/


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You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. I have been working in the software engineering and ecommerce industries for over fifteen years. My interests include computers, electronics, robotics and programmable microcontrollers, and I am an avid outdoorsman and guitar player. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Quora, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m a Technical PMO Director, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of several ecommerce and web-based software startups, the latest of which are Twitterminers.com and Tshirtnow.net.

What are some good books on User Interface design? How do you define user interfaces in your software specification documents? The Hub Tech Insider User Interface Design Bookshelf July 31, 2011

Posted by HubTechInsider in Agile Software Development, Ecommerce, Mobile Software Applications, Product Management, Project Management, Social Media, Software, Uncategorized.
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The Hub Tech Insider User Interface Design Bookshelf: Essential UI Design Books for IT Directors, Project Managers, Program Managers, Software Requirements Engineers, Business Analysts, User Interface Designers, Graphic Designers, Interaction Designers and Information Architects.

Some of the tools that I typically use to produce wireframes and mockups to specify software that is under development include traditional desktop personal computer graphics application software packages such as Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, business graphics and diagramming packages such as Microsoft Visio, and many others, including some on the Mac OS X and Linux platforms.

But no matter which software program you use to prepare your wireframes and mockups, you still need to have the knowledge surrounding what types of controls are available, and the wisdom to know the most apropos situations in which to use those software controls.

It may be surprising to many people that are not involved in the software industry, but it is not always system and application software programmers who are the most familiar with these types of user interface interactivity patterns and controls. User interface designers, graphic designers, and information and interaction architects are usually the ones who specify these types of “Web 2.0” controls.

If you are writing software specification documents, I recommend that you become as familiar as possible with all of the different types of rich internet application controls and interaction patterns that are examined in detail within these books. Programmers and project and program managers will benefit as well.

A great amount of time and effort will be saved if everyone on the project team has familiarity with these fundamental web interface and interaction patterns. Having a common vocabulary with which to communicate to each other in design and development meetings will pay dividends throughout the course of the software development lifecycle.

The ability to suggest an interaction pattern or a type of control that can preserve screen or page real estate, for instance, can make the critical difference in getting a software system design specified in a limited amount of time. Having knowledge of user interface best practices and common user interaction patterns in-house, on the project team itself, can not only save money in avoidance of expensive user interface consultants and UI design firms, but it can also ensure that the tricky question of post-implementation compliance amongst your development team and programming staff.

I have compiled a list of books that in my opinion merit a place on any professional user interface designer’s bookshelf. If you are looking to stock your User Interface library, you really can’t go wrong with this list of books.

I feel that IT Directors, Product Managers, Program Managers and Project Managers, as well as Graphic Designers, Information Architects, and Interaction Designers and Usability Engineers (read this article if you need help understanding what these job titles mean) could all benefit from reading several or all of these books.

I have found in my professional career that having advanced knowledge of User Interface design techniques and best practices aids me greatly in producing high quality project plans and functional specifications for web based applications and their related software development projects. Mockups and wireframes that incorporate the various design patterns outlined in these books have greatly increased my ability to communicate and develop project related deliverables and artifacts for complex and cutting edge user interfaces, particularly those that include social media platform integrations and RIA, or Rich Internet Application, frontends.

The more knowledge that you acquire in your professional career on a software development team, and the more you know about user interfaces for web based applications, the more value you will be capable of delivering to both your employer and yourself in the form of expanded career opportunities.

Web Form Design: Filling in the Blanks

By Luke Wroblewski. Rosenfeld Media, May 2008.

Web Form Design: Filling in the blanks, by Luke Wroblewski

Anyone who designs anything for the web needs a copy of this. It makes it so nice to not have to think about designing forms. I can spend my time on more interesting design challenges. This book doesn’t leave my desk.

Forms make or break the most crucial online interactions: checkout, registration, and any task requiring information entry. In this book, Luke Wroblewski draws on original research, his considerable experience at Yahoo! and eBay, and the perspectives of many of the field’s leading designers to show you everything you need to know about designing effective and engaging web forms.

I have found this book to be the most practical, comprehensive and data-driven guide for solving form design challenges and I consider it an essential reference.

The Smashing Book #1

https://shop.smashingmagazine.com/smashing-book-intl.html

The Smashing Book #1

This book is available exclusively from Smashing Magazine. This book looks at Web design rules of thumb, color theory, usability guidelines, user interface design, best coding and optimization practices, as well as typography, marketing, branding and exclusive insights from top designers across the globe.

This book contains ten carefully prepared, written and edited stories that are based upon topic suggestions and wishes of Smashing Magazine’s readers. The topics covered here are fundamental and so the content is highly practical.

The Smashing Book #2

https://shop.smashingmagazine.com/smashing-book-2-intl.html#d=smashing-book-2

The Smashing Book #2

This book shares valuable practical insight into design, usability and coding. It provides professional advice for designing mobile applications and building successful e-commerce websites, and it explains common coding mistakes and how to avoid them. You’ll explore the principles of professional design thinking and graphic design and learn how to apply psychology and game theory to create engaging user experiences.

Designing Web Interfaces: Principles and Patterns for Rich Interactions

By Bill Scott & Theresa Neil

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0596516258?ie=UTF8&tag=looksgoodwork-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0596516258

Want to learn how to create great user experiences on today’s web? In this book, UI experts Bill Scott and Theresa Neil present more than 75 design patterns for building great web interfaces that provide interaction. Distilled from the author’s years of experience at Sabre, Yahoo!, and Netflix, these best practices are grouped into six key principles to help you take advantage of the web technologies available today. With an entire section devoted to each design principle, Designing Web Interfaces illustrates many patterns with full-color examples from working websites. If you need to build or renovate a website to be truly interactive, this book will give you the principles for success.

Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition

by Steve Krug

http://www.amazon.com/Dont-Make-Me-Think-Usability/dp/0321344758/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_c

Five years and more than 100,000 copies after it was first published, it is very difficult to imagine anyone working in web development or design that has not read this classic on web usability, but people are still discovering it every day. In this second edition, Steve adds three new chapters in the same style as the original: wry and entertaining, yet loaded with insights and practical advice for novice and veteran alike. Don’t be surprised if it completely changes the way you think about web design.

The three new chapters are entitled: Usability as common courtesy (why people really leave web sites), Web accessibility, CSS, and you (making sites usable and accessible), and Help! My boss wants me to ______. (Surviving executive design whims).

In this second edition, Steve adds essential ammunition for those whose bosses, clients, stakeholders, and marketing managers insist on doing the wrong thing. If you design, write, program, own, or manage web sites, you must read this book.

Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems

http://www.amazon.com/Rocket-Surgery-Made-Easy-Yourself/dp/0321657292/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b

It’s been known for years that usability testing can dramatically improve products. But with a typical price tag of $5,000 to $10,000 for a usability consultant to conduct each round of tests, it rarely happens.

In this how-to companion to Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, Steve Krug spells out an approach to usability testing that anyone can easily apply to their own web site, application, or other product. (As he said in Don’t Make Me Think, “It’s not rocket surgery”.)

Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites

http://www.amazon.com/Information-Architecture-World-Wide-Web/dp/0596527349/ref=pd_sim_b_2

Saul Wurman first used the term Information Architecture in his book of the same name. His book was mostly lots of really pretty pictures of media and webs compiled from a graphic design perspective; they were beautiful but never really dealt with the information end of things. Rosenfeld and Morville get it right. They show how to design manageable sites right the first time, sites built for growth. They discuss ideas of organization, navigation, labeling, searching, research, and conceptual design. This is almost common sense, which is often overlooked in the rush for cascading style sheets and XML.

The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web

http://www.amazon.com/Elements-User-Experience-User-Centered-Design/dp/0735712026/ref=pd_sim_b_5

From the moment it was published almost ten years ago, Elements of User Experience became a vital reference for web and interaction designers the world over, and has come to define the core principles of the practice. Now, in this updated, expanded, and full-color new edition, Jesse James Garrett has refined his thinking about the Web, going beyond the desktop to include information that also applies to the sudden proliferation of mobile devices and applications.

Successful interaction design requires more than just creating clean code and sharp graphics. You must also fulfill your strategic objectives while meeting the needs of your users. Even the best content and the most sophisticated technology won’t help you balance those goals without a cohesive, consistent user experience to support it.

With so many issues involved—usability, brand identity, information architecture, interaction design— creating the user experience can be overwhelmingly complex. This new edition of The Elements of User Experience cuts through that complexity with clear explanations and vivid illustrations that focus on ideas rather than tools or techniques. Garrett gives readers the big picture of user experience development, from strategy and requirements to information architecture and visual design.

Forms that Work: Designing Web Forms for Usability

by Caroline Jarrett and Gerry Gaffney

http://www.amazon.com/Forms-that-Work-Interactive-Technologies/dp/1558607102/ref=pd_sim_b_3

Forms are everywhere on the web – used for registration and communicating, for commerce and government alike. Good forms make for happier customers, better data, and reduced support costs. Bad forms fill your organization’s databases with inaccuracies and duplicates and can cause the loss of potential or current customers. This book isn’t about just colons and choosing the right widgets. It’s about the entire process of making good forms, which has a lot more to do with making sure you’re asking the right questions and in such a way that your users can answer than it does with whether you use a drop-down list or radio buttons.

If your web site includes forms, then you need to read this book. In an easy-to-red format with lots of examples, Caroline Jarrett, who runs the usability consulting company Effortmark Ltd.(http://www.usabilitynews.com), and Gerry Gaffney, who runs the usability consulting company Information & Design Proprietary Ltd.(http://www.uxpod.com), present their three layer model – appearance, conversation, and relationship. You need all three for a successful form – a form that looks good, flows well, asks the right questions in the right way, and most importantly, gets users to fill it out.

Designing good forms is trickier than people think. This book explains exactly how to design great forms for the web. Liberally illustrated with full-color examples, it guides readers through how to define and gather requirements to how to write questions that users will understand and want to answer, as well as how to deal with instructions, progress indicators, and error conditions.

I found that this book provides proven and practical advice that will help designers avoid pitfalls, and produce forms that are aesthetically pleasing, efficient, and cost-effective.

The book is filled with invaluable design methods and tips to help ensure accurate data and satisfied customers, and includes dozens of examples, from nitty-gritty details (label alignment, mandatory fields) to visual design (creating good grids, use of color).

Defensive Design for the Web: How to improve error messages, help, forms, and other crisis points

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/073571410X?ie=UTF8&tag=looksgoodwork-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=073571410X

by Matthew Linderman and Jason Fried

Let the 37signals team show you the best way to prevent your customers from making mistakes, and help them recover for errors if a mistake does occur. This book doesn’t leave my desk either.

The folks at 37signals have created an invaluable resource: tons of ‘best practice’ examples for ensuring that web users can recover gracefully when things – as they inevitably will – go ‘worng’ !

In this book, you will learn 40 guidelines to prevent errors and rescue customers if a breakdown does occur. You will see hundreds of real-world examples from companies like Amazon and Google that show the right (and wrong) ways to handle crisis points.

You can also use this book to evaluate your own site’s defensive design with an easy-to-perform test and find out how to improve your site over the long term.

About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design

By Alan Cooper. Wiley 2007.

About Face 3, by Alan Cooper

Learn the rules before you break them. Please. Pretty please with a cherry on top? Get this book and read it if you are responsible for designing anything more than a simple web site. Good for Flex developers and Ajax developers as well. Lots of patterns that can be extrapolated for Rich Internet Applications.

Prototyping: A Practitioner’s Guide

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1933820217?ie=UTF8&tag=looksgoodwork-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1933820217

Prototyping: A Practitioner’s Guide” is a terrific and comprehensive review of both the prototyping process and the tools involved. There’s really very little with which to find fault. I found that the book both validated my experience in prototyping and provided new techniques to try out, with many “Aha!” moments in both respects. The inclusion of case studies illustrating the techniques provide additional perspective and make the techniques more “real”. The review of each prototyping technique/tool, whether paper or software-based, includes links to additional resources like toolkits, sample images, and the like – these would be especially useful to someone just getting started with a particular tool. Speaking as a designer who’s typically relied on HTML prototypes and Visio, I must say my interest in Adobe Fireworks and, to a lesser extent, Axure is piqued. I think any UI/UX/IX designer, of any level of experience, would get something out of this book. Not that it would be useful only to them – analysts and software engineers will benefit from it as well.


Want to know more?

You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. I have been working in the software engineering and ecommerce industries for over fifteen years. My interests include computers, electronics, robotics and programmable microcontrollers, and I am an avid outdoorsman and guitar player. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, follow me on Quora, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m a Technical PMO Director, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of several ecommerce and web-based software startups, the latest of which are Twitterminers.com and Tshirtnow.net.

What is NFC? What is the smartphone mobile payments technology known as Near Field Communications? March 6, 2011

Posted by HubTechInsider in Ecommerce, Mobile Software Applications, Telecommunications, Wireless Applications.
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It has been several years now that I have been reading and hearing about mobile phone toting consumers being able to purchase soft drinks from vending machines through the use of SMS texts to the vending machine.

The possibilities of a mobile digital wallet, a North American equivalent of European Smartcards and mobile SMS payments systems, to be used as a payments service for smartphones, certainly include the hypothetical future displacement of the cash register as the payment method of choice for consumers on the go.

NFC, or Near Field Communication, may perhaps have such a potential.

Since the middle of December, in and around Portland, Oregon, Google has been handing out hundreds of NFC kits to local businesses as part of an NFC trial they are calling “Hotpot”.

The Google Hotpot kits include special NFC-capable window decals. NFC is a low power technology that beams and receives wireless information from up to four inches away. When consumers with NFC-equipped telephones such as the latest models of Android operating system cellular phones, scan a NFC-equiped window decal, they will be presented with information on their mobile device such as business hours, reviews, and more.

The hope is that the increasingly mobile consumer will willingly engage with local merchants using this new technology, allowing merchants to interact with the generations of consumers growing up with texting and mobile smartphones in their pockets.

2011 is really shaping up to be the year of NFC, with Google considering building an NFC-based payment service in the U.S. that could make its debut later this year. The technology would let customers pay for items by passing their smartphone over a small reader. A single NFC chip would be able to hold a consumer’s bank account information, gift cards, loyalty cards, and coupons, say the two people, who requested anonymity because the plans aren’t public. Google’s NFC scheme includes an advertising component that would allow merchants to beam a coupon or other reward to customers while they are shopping.

Of course, advanced smartphone owners can already complete mobile transactions by downloading payment applications. Paypal’s iPhone iOS application, for example, lets PayPal users transmit funds to other PayPal account holders. But NFC technology could potentially streamline such transactions. Users of advanced smartphones equipped with NFC technology don’t need to launch an application; they simply wave or tap their smartphone against a small reader device and enter a PIN number on it to authenticate their purchases.

A Google NFC network offering would encounter stiff competition from the start from the likes of companies such as Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, the three of whom in November 2010 formed a joint commercial venture called ISIS that plans to launch an NFC-based payments service by 2012. Visa is also field testing several mobile payment technologies, including NFC, and plans a commercial rollout later this year. It is rumored that PayPal, a division of eBay, may test an NFC service in the second half of 2011 as well.

Silicon Valley is hard at work on NFC technology too, with Apple having filed a patent for a process to transmit money between cellular telephones using NFC. Apple recently hired NFC expert Benjamin Vigier away from mFoundry, a startup that helps banks build mobile payments applications. If the next iPhone does come equipped with an NFC chip, then perhaps Apple will process mobile payments through Apple’s iTunes store.

The increased competition and jockeying for position in the NFC space is undoubtedly due to the high stakes involved, as the prize for whoever wins the NFC race is a dominant position in a small but fast-growing market that could displace the cash register in time. A leading market research firm, IE Market Research, estimates that by 2014, NFC-based payment systems will account for a third of the $1.13 trillion in worldwide mobile transactions.

In mid-December, Google, whose former CEO, Eric Schmidt, has said that NFC will “eventually replace credit cards”, in December 2010 bought Zetawire, a Canadian startup with several NFC patents to its name, including a novel method for diners to split up and pay a restaurant bill using their smartphones. If Google does decide to launch an NFC payments network, they would have the built-in advantage of its very large and rapidly expanding installed user base of Android smartphone owners. Every single day, around 300,000 people activate Android telephones, and they accounted for more than 25 percent of the new smartphones shipped in the third quarter of 2010, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The latest version of Google’s smartphone operating system, Android, capable of reading NFC tags is dubbed Gingerbread. Later this year, software updates to Android will let Android smartphones transmit information using NFC as well. In December 2010, Google introduced its Nexus S smartphone, based on Android Gingerbread and carrying an NFC chip onboard. In January 2011, Starbucks announced that customers would be able to start using a bar-code application on their smartphones to purchase coffee in some 6,800 of its stores.

There are obstacles to widespread consumer adoption, however. For an NFC-based payments network to really work, Google needs to convince not just Android smartphone owners but also local merchants who must install NFC readers to process mobile payments. Hotpot, which Google has been promoting heavily, introduces merchants to the NFC technology. NFC is already in heavy use in parts of Asia and Europe.


Want to know more?

You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies,software developmentAgile project managementmanaging software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projectsecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurshipecommercetelecommunications andsoftware development, I’m a Technical PMO Director, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of TwitterMiners.com & Tshirtnow.net.


What’s the difference between a Graphic Designer, an Information Architect and an Interaction Designer? September 15, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Agile Software Development, Definitions, Ecommerce, Mobile Software Applications, Project Management, Social Media, Software, VoIP, VUI Voice User Interface, Wireless Applications.
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Information Architecture is the study of the organization and structure of effective web systems. Information architects study and design the relationships between internal page elements, as well as the relationships and navigation paths between individual pages. They combine Web design, information and library science as well as technical skills to order enterprise knowledge and design organizational systems within websites that help Users find and manage information more successfully. They are also responsible for things like ordering tabs and content sections of a web-based software application.  They try to structure content and access to functions in such a way as to facilitate Users finding paths to knowledge and the swift accomplishment of their User Goals with the System.

Graphic Design is the skill of creating presentations of content (usually hypertext or hypermedia) that are delivered to Users through the World Wide Web, by way of a Web browser or other Web-enabled software like Internet television clients, micro blogging clients and RSS readers. Graphic designers study and design graphic elements, logos, artwork, stock photography, typography, font selection, color selection, color palettes and CSS styles.


Interaction Design is the process of creating an interface for the user to engage with a site or application’s functionality and content. Interaction designers are concerned mainly with facilitating users’ goals and tasks, and use a systematic and iterative process for designing highly interactive user interfaces. Their methodology includes research and discovery techniques such as requirements analysis, stakeholder analysis, task analysis, as well as prototyping, inspection and evaluation methods to define the structure and behavior of a web-based software system.


What’s the difference between Design and User Experience?

  • Design is about changing understanding; user experience is about changing behavior.
  • Design is about intent; user experience is about purpose.
  • Design is about style; user experience is about substance.
  • Design is about the platform; user experience is about the person.
  • Design is about the present; user experience is about the past and future.
  • Design is about action; user experience is about impact.

Cambridge’s Vanu, Inc., announces a $2.15 Million round of equity financing August 23, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Mobile Software Applications, Startups, Telecommunications, Venture Capital, Wireless Applications.
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Cambridge’s Vanu, Inc., a maker of software radio systems, announces a $2.15 Million round of equity financing led by a group of investors including Norwest Venture Partners, Teta Capital, and Charles River Ventures.

Boston’s Skyhook Wireless maps the physical meatspace world so your smartphone can know its location in a minute without slow GPS satellite fixes August 23, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Mobile Software Applications, Startups, Wireless Applications.
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Boston’s Skyhook Wireless maps the physical meatspace world so your smartphone can know its location in a minute without slow GPS satellite fixes and tap into the new wave of nascent geo-location services.


Skyhook Wireless software loads onto mobile telephones and other portable devices like netbook computers and tablet computers and in most urban city locations can pinpoint a user’s location within 60 feet, obtaining a position fix in around one to two minutes, much faster than traditional GPS, or Global Positioning Systems, are able to obtain positive location information or even connect, while inside buildings.


When a Skyhook-enabled smartphone checks on its location, it will use the Skyhook Wireless software to scan for nearby cellular towers, Wi-Fi hotspots and available GPS satellites. The smartphone then sends that data to a Skyhhok Wireless server and within seconds can get a positive position fix on where in the world that smartphone is. This three-pronged approach is superior in the field in many instances for obtaining a position as opposed to reliance on GPS alone, which can take minutes to obtain a position fix.


But Skyhook Wireless must continuously update its location database as people move and new hotspots emerge and cease. The biggest challenge is not getting the data, it is managing the chaos that surrounds the shifting database of location-fixing data.


Skyhook Wireless software is part of a thriving emerging market for location-based services. These services include mobile social networks like Facebook Places, Gowalla and Foursquare, which enable “checking in” and broadcasting your location information to friends, announcing, for example, your arrival at a neighborhood restaurant.


To make this possible, Skyhook Wireless has amassed a database of more than 50 billion scanned records of Wi-Fi, cellular tower and GPS signals. This “map” of locations captures nearly 80% of the geographic areas in which the population of the US lives and works daily. In order to gather all of this information, Skyhook Wireless, on any given day, employs 500 drivers to cruise around with laptops and wireless antennas that read Wi-Fi and other signals and correlate them with locations. The company’s ultimate goal is to obtain baseline scans of all the roads and cities across the entire globe.


Skyhook Wireless has among its customers the manufacturers of mobile phones and other consumer devices. Skyhook Wireless software is installed in tens of millions of consumer gadgets, including some netbook computers, cameras, and until very recently, every iPhone, iPad and iPod that Apple shipped. In April, Apple began using its own location data it had been collecting for this purpose over years of iPhone use. In July of this year, Skyhook Wireless inked a deal with Samsung for its smartphones and has agreements with Motorola and Dell as well.


Licensing Skyhook Wireless technology can cost as much as $2 per device. Forbes magazine estimated the company’s 2009 revenues at $25 Million. Skyhook Wireless has around 35 emplyees, was founded in 2003, and has raised around $17 Million from investors to date.


Skyhook Wireless is competing against Apple, Inc., as mentioned previously in this article, as well as giants Google and Nokia, which have both also developed and acquired similar services that use multiple locataion data inputs, like Wi-Fi hotspots for mobile location fixing. It may be significant that in April of this year, Motorola choose to license the Skyhook Wireless technology rather than use Google’s free location software.


The CEO of Skyhook Wireless is Ted Morgan, age 43, the company’s founder.

The Hub Tech Insider Glossary of Mobile Web Terminology August 21, 2010

Posted by HubTechInsider in Definitions, Mobile Software Applications, Wireless Applications.
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Well, as all of my regular readers know, and most casual readers of these pages can probably easily surmise, I am an ecommerce guy.

I have been designing, programming, managing, and just about everything-ing, ecommerce sites and companies for well over 15 years at this point.

I started my first ecommerce site in 1994. My first web site was an ecommerce site, the third web site in the US state in which I was living at the time. So building online stores is something I am super passionate about.

Sometime ago, probably around 2003 or 2004, I became convinced of the inevitability of the mobile web, and mobile web browsing for ecommerce sites.

I never really believed that the mobile browsing and online purchasing experience, or typical use case, for mobile browsing would be the same as the browsing experience on the desktop PC-based web. It just seemed to me that the mobile version of an ecommerce (or any other content-serving web site, for that matter) site would have to be optimized for a person on-the-go.

The appearance of the Apple iPhone really got me fired up about the mobile web, because I saw Apple driving mobile browsing to the fore of the public’s attention. There were several other factors that were, to my mind, inevitably driving the adoption of mobile web browsing.

So I set out to learn everything I could about mobile browsing, browsers, devices, standards, everything about mobile ecommerce and mobile web design.

At this point (summer 2010), I have set up several mobile versions of ecommerce sites. The mobile version of one of  my latest ecommerce projects, tshirtnow.net, is currently responsible for around 9% of that site’s orders, which I find amazing. I expect this number to grow over time.

My employer, eSpendWise, (I am Director of Technical Projects there) is in the midst of developing a very thoughtful mobile portal into the eSpendWise ecommerce and eProcurement platform used by many Fortune 100 companies, like Apple, Inc., Nike, and others. Optimizing the mobile portal for the nomadic browsing experience (picture a store manager approving a shipment of cleaning supplies on their smartphone while running to help a cashier) while still preserving the power and flexibility of the eSpendWise platform, as you might well be able to imagine, dear reader, is a challenging task to say the least.

A recent study by mobile commerce analysts at Morgan Stanley projected that within five years, the number of user accessing the net from mobile devices will surpass the number who access it from PCs.

Because the screens are smaller, such mobile traffic is trending to be driven in the future by specialty software, mostly apps, designed for a single purpose. For the sake of the optimized experience on mobile devices, many users will forgo the general purpose browser for specialized mobile applications. Users want the Net on their mobile devices, but not necessarily the Web. Fast and easy (specialized purpose-built mobile applications) may eventually win out over flexible (the current desktop browser-oriented world wide web).

One thing I recommend is designing to web standards for your mobile applications or portals. In this way, you have the best shot at “future proofing” your mobile optimized content and applications.

During the writing of Functional Specifications for some of the mobile projects I have been involved with or responsible for, I have created a Glossary of mobile web terms and terminology I wanted to share with my HubTechInsider.com readers so that it may serve as a reference for their own mobile web design efforts.

Please don’t hesitate to send me an email with any questions or additions / corrects you may have for me, and please send me a short note with links / information about your own mobile web design efforts!

The Hub Tech Insider Glossary of Mobile Web Terminology

3G – 3G stands for Third Generation and refers to the latest phase in mobile technology. 3G enables much faster connections to the Internet so that you can get richer multimedia experiences such as video messaging.

4G – 4G stands for Fourth Generation and is a somewhat vague term used to describe wireless mobile radio technologies that offer faster data rates than current 3G (third generation) technologies. 4G networks are also more data-centric and based on standard Internet technologies such as IP. Voice service is typically provided using a special form of VoIP. WiMAX and LTE are examples of 4G technologies.

A-GPS – Assisted Global positioning System. This is a mobile-based location technology. The mobile uses A-GPS to work out location with the help of both GPS satellites and local network base stations.

AFLT (Advanced Forward Link Transmission) – AFLT is a mobile-based location technology. AFLT does not employ GPS satellites to work out locations. Instead, the phone measures signals from nearby cellular base stations and reports the time/distance readings back to the network which is then able to work out your location.

BROWSER – Software that allows you to view Internet content on a web-enabled device.

cHTML, C-HTML, Compact HTML – cHTML is a subset of HTML for i-mode browsers.  cHTML is used only in Japan. cHTML is considered technical superior to WML. cHTML was replaced at W3C by XHTML Basic.

CTI (Computer Telephony Integration) – CTI is an optional set of applications that integrate your business’ telephone system with a computer.  Features can include video conferencing, one-click dialing, incoming call routing, and a variety of other timesaving features that could be appealing to large businesses.

EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) – This is an enhanced modulation technique which increases network capacity and data rates in GSM networks.

FEATURE PHONE – A cell phone with lightweight web features, not smartphones.

GSM (Global System for Mobile) – This is the digital network that mobile phones have used to make calls and send text messages, as well as the standard network available across much of the world. The data connection to the mobile internet is a phone call (similar to a fixed line modem) and it is billed relative to the duration of the call.

HDML(Hyper Device Markup Language) Computer language format used to create wireless websites. HDML is the oldest markup language for display on mobile devices (circa 1996). HDML has a very simple syntax. HDML was never standardized, but was influential in the development of WML. No longer used on mobile phones in North America and Europe.

iDEN – a mobile telecommunications technology, developed by Motorola, which provides its users the benefits of a trunked radio and a cellular telephone. iDEN places more users in a given spectral space, compared to analog cellular and two-way radio systems, by using speech compression and time division multiple access (TDMA). iDEN is an enhanced specialized mobile radio network technology that combines two-way radio, telephone, text messaging and data transmission into one network.

i-mode – NTT DoCoMo proprietary wireless Internet service. Provides mobile devices access to web, e-mail and packet data. NTT DoCoMo I-mode is available only in Japan.

IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identifier) – This is 15-digit number which identifies an individual phone to the network operators.

Java (J2ME: Java 2 Micro Edition) – Java or J2ME (Java 2 Micro Edition) enables users to download tailor-made software applications onto their phones e.g. mobile games.

LTE (Long-Term Evolution) – An effort to develop advanced wireless mobile radio technology that will succeed current 3G WCDMA/HSDPA/HSUPA technology. Although “LTE” is not the name of the standard itself, it is often used that way. The actual standard is called 3GPP Release 8. LTE is considered by many to be a “4G” technology, both because it is faster than 3G, and because it uses an “all-IP” architecture where everything (including voice) is handled as data, similar to the Internet.

MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) – Also referred to as picture messaging, MMS works much like text messaging but with a greater capacity so you can send larger quantities of text as well as attaching images and audio files from your phone.

NATIVE APPLICATION – Mobile phone software compiled into a compatible binary format, stored in phone memory and run locally on the device. I.e. web browser, email reader, phone book.

PORTAL – A website accessed by desktop or wireless device that provides a wide selection of information from a single place.

PREDICTIVE TEXT (T9: Text on Nine Keys) – Predictive text allows you to enter text by pressing only one key per letter. When you try and text in a word, the phone will automatically compare all of the possible letter combinations against its own dictionary and predict which word you intended to type.

ROAMING – Making or receiving calls (or using wireless data services) outside your home airtime rate area. Additional fees may apply, depending on your calling plan.

SERIES 60 / SERIES 40 – Series 60 is based on the Symbian Operating System and is a major platform for smartphones. Series 60 was developed by Nokia for their own smartphones but they also license the platform to other mobile manufacturers. Series 60 mobiles tend to have a large color display and a large amount of memory for storing content. Series 40 phones tend to have smaller screens and less memory.

SIM CARD – This is the small card that slots into the back of a mobile phone underneath the battery. The SIM card controls your phone number and the Network that it works on.

SMARTPHONE – A smartphone is like a combination of a standard mobile phone and a PDA. Smartphones have their own complete Operating Systems but differ from PDAs in that they have a standard phone keyboard for input instead of a touch screen and pen.

SMS – (Short Message Service) Send or receive messages (up to 160 characters each) using your wireless device.  SMS is also known as “Text Messaging”.

SOFT KEYS – Soft keys can be used for many different functions according to what is displayed on your mobile at any one moment e.g. ‘Select’ and ‘Exit’. They are commonly found right under the display.

SYMBIAN – Symbian is made up of a group of companies (Nokia, Ericsson, Motorola, and Psion) who create operating systems for mobiles and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

SYNCHRONIZED ACCESS – Some companies create a scaled-down version of their website for PDAs. A copy of the site is stored on the PDA and updated each time it is placed in its cradle and synchronized.

TEXT MESSAGING – Send/receive messages (up to 160 characters each) from your wireless device. Text Messaging is also known as “SMS.”

TRI-BAND – A GSM mobile of which there are two major types (European and Americas) and supports three of the four major GSM frequency bands. This type of mobile functions in most parts of the world.

U-TDOA (Uplink Time Difference on Arrival) – U-TDOA is a position-location technology for mobile phone networks. It works out your exact location by using triangulation techniques i.e. by measuring your distance from two known points.

UMTS – UMTS is one of the standard technologies used to enable 3G mobile services e.g. video on your phone.

WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) – This is the technology that enables mobile phones to browse the Internet. Open standard for network communication that allows mobile devices to access the Internet. WAP is a lightweight protocol providing primitive Internet support (from a desktop point of view). WAP was criticized for fragmenting the Web into Desktop and Mobile variants.

  • WAP 1.x – WML
  • WAP 2.x – XHTML-MP

WEB APPLICATION – A web application is an application that is accessed via Web browser over the Internet.  Application runs on a web server. Markup documents are typically rendered on the User’s phone. No binary compilation or persistent local storage.

WiMax – (802.16a) WiMax is the trade name for a family of new technologies related to the IEEE 802.16 wireless standards. WiMax has the potential for very long range (5 – 30 miles) and high speeds. The initial version, based on 802.16a, is designed for fixed (non-mobile) applications only, such as a wireless replacement for home DSL or cable modem service.  Newer versions, such as 802.16e, add support for mobility, potentially making WiMax a competitor for certain 3G or 4G cell-phone technologies. WiMax uses OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), an increasingly common type of digital wireless technology that is also used in some digital radio and television standards. WiMax operates at higher frequencies than mobile phone networks. WiMax technology can operate in the 2.5 or 3.5 GHz licensed bands, or in the 5.8 GHz unlicensed band.

WML (Wireless Markup Language)–  Computer language format used to create websites that can be viewed on a wireless telephone or device. WML is a XML-based markup language for mobile phones. WML has a very simple syntax. WML was standardized by W3C. WML is considered to be a legacy markup language for mobile devices. Implements WAP.

WTAI (Wireless Telephony Applications Interface) – A protocol used in conjunction with the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) to allow a phone number to be linked to a web page.

WURFL (Wireless Universal Resource File) – WURFL is an open source directory and APIs for programmatic discovery of mobile device capabilities.

XHTML – XHTML is a HTML markup language in XML-compliant syntax.

XHTML Basic – W3C-standardized subset of HTML targeted for mobile devices, pagers and set-top boxes.

XHTML-MP – Superset of XHTML-Basic defined by the Open Mobile Alliance industry group. XHTML-MP is considered to be the implementation of WAP 2.0. XHTML-MP is a very popular markup language for mobile devices and carrier sponsored applications and portals.

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You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies,software developmentAgile project managementmanaging software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projectsecommerce and telecommunications.

About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurshipecommercetelecommunications andsoftware development, I’m the Director, Technical Projects at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.

Pyxis Mobile, the Waltham based maker of mobile applications for the financial services industry, raises $2 Million June 28, 2010

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Pyxis Mobile, the Waltham based maker of mobile applications for the financial services industry, raises $2 Million from a group of investors led by Ascent Venture Partners, Egan Managed Capital, and Brook Private Equity.

Verizon to open new Waltham, Massachusetts 4G & FiOS Innovation & Research Center April 19, 2010

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Verizon Communications Inc. says it plans to start building a new research center in Waltham, Massachusetts focused around 4G wireless Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology. Verizon Wireless currently is piloting an LTE network deployment in parts of Boston. The new Verizon Waltham Technology Innovation Center will eventually house more than 300 scientists and researchers, officials said, most of whom are already working for Verizon in two exisitng buildings at that location.


In addition to its LTE research, the new Waltham campus will house researchers working on other Verizon offerings. LTE is the major focus of that building, but there will also be other Verizon work going on, including the further development of FiOS.


The campus at 117 West St. in Waltham will include three buildings once the new one is finished. In addition to the research space, it will house offices, as well as an executive briefing center.


As of August 2009, Verizon had 10 LTE 4G cell sites running around Greater Boston in its pilot deployment. LTE wireless service is expected to provide up to 10 times the speed – or about 8 megabits per second – of current 3G services. In March, Verizon announced that in its pilot deployments it was seeing average speeds of between 5Mbps and 12Mbps on a download in real world use, with peaks as high as 50Mbps.


Portsmouth, NH’s Whaleback Systems, a provider of managed VOIP services, raises $600,000 March 8, 2010

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Portsmouth, NH’s Whaleback Systems, a provider of managed VOIP services, raises $600,000 from Ascent Ventures and Castile Ventures.

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How much bandwidth does a smartphone use? How much bandwidth does an Apple iPad use? How much bandwidth does an Apple iPhone use? February 7, 2010

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How much bandwidth does a smartphone use? How much bandwidth does an Apple iPad use? How much bandwidth does an Apple iPhone use?

Wireless operators are struggling to keep up with demand as more people use their phones to check Facebook and watch videos online. Here are estimates of how much bandwidth is used per person for various activities on different phones.

One megabyte is roughly equivalent to one digital book, 45 seconds of music, or 20 seconds of medium-quality video.

Feature Phones such as the Motorola Razr are used primarily to make calls, and they consume littel bandwidth even for web activities because they have stripped-down web browsers. Feature phones and their users tend to consume around 100 Megabytes of data downloads a month, using 4 MB of voice calls an hour, and 4 to 5 MB of web browsing per hour.

Smartphones such as Research in Motion’s popular Blackberry, are used for phone calls, email, and light web browsing. Smartphones and their users tend to consume around 185 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, utilizing 4 MB per hour for voice calls, and 4 to 5 MB of web browsing.

Superphones are advanced smartphones, including Apple’s iPhone and Motorola’s Droid, that make it easy for people to surf the web and watch online videos, leading to much higher bandwidth use.

Superphones and their users tend to consume around 560 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, using 4 MB per hour for voice calls, 40 MB per hour for web browsing, 60 MB per hour for internet radio, and 200 MB per hour for YouTube videos.

Tablet computers such as Apple’s newly unveiled iPad are likely to send data use even higher. Th iPad will chew up even more bandwidth than the iPone because of its larger screen. Tablet computer and iPad users tend to consume 800 to 1,000 Megabytes of total monthly data downloads, using 50 to 60 MB per hour for web browsing, 60 MB per hour for internet radio, and 300 to 400 MB per hour for YouTube videos.

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  Feature Phones Smartphones Superphones Tablet Computers
Monthly Totals
100 MB
185 MB
560 MB
800-1K MB
Voice Calls
4 MB / Hr.
4 MB / Hr.
4 MB / Hr.
 
Web Browsing
4-5 MB/Hr.
4-5 MB/Hr
40 MB/Hr.
50-60 MB/Hr
Internet Radio     60 MB/Hr.
60 MB / Hr.
YouTube Videos     200MB/Hr 3-400MB/Hr.


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You’re reading Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a blog stuffed with years of articles about Boston technology startups and venture capital-backed companies, software development, Agile project management, managing software teams, designing web-based business applications, running successful software development projects, ecommerce and telecommunications.


About the author.

I’m Paul Seibert, Editor of Boston’s Hub Tech Insider, a Boston focused technology blog. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, follow me on Twitter, even friend me on Facebook if you’re cool. I own and am trying to sell a dual-zoned, residential & commercial Office Building in Natick, MA. I have a background in entrepreneurship, ecommerce, telecommunications and software development, I’m the Senior Technical Project Manager at eSpendWise, I’m a serial entrepreneur and the co-founder of Tshirtnow.net.


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Boston’s SCVNGR, location-aware mobile games maker, raises $4 Million January 3, 2010

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Boston’s SCVNGR, a maker of a mobile software platform that lets you build location-based games compatible with any mobile phone, raises $4 Million from a group of investors including Google Ventures and Highland Capital.

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Boston’s Nexage raises $4 Million in a Series A round of equity financing December 17, 2009

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Boston’s Nexage, a provider of mobile advertising solutions, has announced it has raised $4 Million in a Series A round of equity financing led by GrandBanks Capital and Blackberry Partners Fund

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Littleton’s Movik, a developer of software to speed delivery of content to mobile devices, has raised $8.5 Million in a Series B round of equity financing. December 16, 2009

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Littleton’s Movik, a developer of software to speed delivery of content to mobile devices, has announced it has raised $8.5 Million in a Series B round of equity financing led by Highland Capital Partners and North Bridge Venture Partners.

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North Billerica’s Contour Semiconductor raises $8 Million December 11, 2009

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North Billerica’s Contour Semiconductor, a producer of Flash memory chips for mobile-device data storage, has raised $8 Million from Fairhaven Capital Partners, American Capital, Still River Funds, and Eastward Capital Partners.

Boston’s Roam Data, cell phone payment processing software maker, raises $6.5 Million in a Series B round of equity financing December 1, 2009

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Boston’s Roam Data, a developer of cell phone payment processing software that allows merchants to process payments over cell phones, has raised $6.5 Million in a Series B round of equity financing led by Ingenico Ventures (a unit of payment solutions provider Ingenico SAS) and George Wallner (founder and former CEO of Hypercom).

Westford, MA based wireless video technology company Aylus Networks Inc raises $5.7 Million in a Series C round of equity financing November 17, 2009

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Westford, MA based wireless video technology company Aylus Networks Inc raises $5.7 Million in a Series C round of equity financing from a number of undisclosed institutional investors.

Skyhook Wireless, based in Boston, makes chips that improve the performance of Google Maps on Nokia smartphones November 13, 2009

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Boston-based Skyhook Wireless is expected to announce next week that it’s releasing an application for Nokia smartphones that will give owners a far faster and more accurate fix on their locations. Skyhook’s $2.99 Maps Booster works on any Symbian S60 handset and will be available starting next week through Nokia’s new and much-heralded Ovi app store; it replaces the Symbian operating system’s built-in location-finding platform with Skyhook’s software, which then feeds location data directly to other location-aware apps such as Google Maps. The company says it created the program because Nokia phones are notorious for their slow performance in GPS mode. “With such high price tags, we think all features of Nokia smartphones should work perfectly,” Kate Imbach, Skyhook’s director of marketing and developer programs, said in a statement. “Maps Booster, finally, will make the location on any Nokia S60 device work just as well as location on the iPhone.”

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