Designing Mobile Websites For The Smartphone vs. The User

When you think about developing a feature-rich mobile website, at first glance it may appear that you are only limited by the native functions of the mobile devices used to access your website – among them, the smartphone.

What is a "smartphone?"

A smartphone is a cellphone that blends the technology of a telephone and a computer. By running on an "operating system" – just like computers – the smartphone allows the user to download applications (or "apps" for short), handle business and pleasure, and the smartphone can also double as a PDA.

In addition to the ability to make phone calls, a smartphone brings in the ability to send and receive email, create and edit office documents, listen to music and even browse the web: all capabilities that were once restricted to the desktop or laptop computer.

Smartphones carry a wide range of interactive functions, which opens the door for infinite programming possibilities when it comes to building applications on and off the web. But before you go "hog wild" with gadgets and widgets to make your website interact with a user's smartphone in any way possible just because you can, I invite you to consider one point:

While smart phones inherently carry a wide range of functionality that could keep any developer busy for years developing ways to use those functions – not all users are aware of what their smart phone can do.

For example, the average user doesn't always know their smart phone has the inherent capability to open multiple browser windows while they are surfing the web. On older cell phones it wasn't possible to open multiple browser windows.

On the iPhone and phones equipped with the Android OS (or other similar operating systems) you can have multiple browser windows open and navigate between them – you just need to know how. This means that even something as basic as opening links in new browser windows could potentially confuse users if they don't know how to navigate between them.

A user's lack of knowledge of their own phone affects your business

If your mobile website creates pop-ups or opens links in new browser windows, you run the risk of that content never being seen by the user. Or if a user's browser automatically takes them to the new window after clicking on a link, you run the risk of that user being unable to easily navigate back to your main webpage.

At the end of the day, smartphones are wonderfully useful devices that can enhance and enrich our lives and improve commnication – although it seems that at least for now, we, as users, have a lot of catching up to do to get up to speed with those possibilities!

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