Creating Content for Mobile Devices

IDC (International Data Corporation) recently estimated the total number of all handheld devices shipped worldwide will exceed 24.8 million this year.

By combining software and design principles, companies are planning to extend their enterprise and Web-based applications to handheld computers on the Palm, Psion and Windows CE platforms.

These devices are designed for mobility. Therefore developing effective interactive applications for low-resolution displays requires careful planning.

The following guidelines will optimize content that is to be converted to small screen devices:

Content Selection – Choose content that is most essential to your target audience. This is the most popular content that a user will access regularly or will urgently require in certain situations.

Customize the content specifically for this audience. Focus on their specific needs.

Minimize Page Length – Mobile devices restrict the amount of screen space available to an application. When developing such applications keep in mind that the familiar web-based horizontal/vertical scrolling may not be the best solution.

You may get better results by using drill-down navigation with hypertext links to allow you to navigate forward and backward.

Organize Data – Whenever you group data on hyper-linked pages, you must maintain a balance between page depth (level of nested pages) and the length of individual pages.

For mobile devices, use a deeper hierarchy rather than longer pages; users find it difficult to find their location in a lengthy section of text using the scroll bar.

Split long documents into smaller sections and create indexes wherever possible. If splitting is not possible use anchors to mark sections and maintain links to them from the table of contents.

Layout – Avoid graphics that reduce readability. Provide access to useful, concise and well organized content.

Design graphics that fit on one screen. Use images that are compatible with various display capability (e.g. 1 bit, 2 bit, full color).

Display Size – When designing remember the products screen size. The available screen real estate on the PalmPilot is only 160×160 pixels, while the Windows CE devices range up to 640×480.

Tip: Avoid scaling images to fit various screen sizes; they will lose their resolution on certain sets; avoid images wider than the devices’ viewing area. Avoid large images as they eat up screen space and consume bandwidth.

Bandwidth — Avoid large, detailed images as it may obstruct the main content. If there is a way of conveying the data without requiring the image then it may be best to avoid using it. On bandwidth restricted devices you need to justify every image that you use.

Color Schemes — It is usually best to use graphics that are primarily black-and-white when using handheld devices. It is hard to predict how different certain colors will turn out. Avoid graphics with curved lines. Convert color images to black and white. Anti-aliased don’t usually convert well.

Design Images — Design your images with clean lines and simple shapes since more complicated elements tend to appear ragged. It is better to use an image that is deliberately simple, rather than using a complex image that may appear confusing.