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Find out which are the essential design issues when developing applications for handheld devices.

Mobile devices' inherent Web capabilities open a whole new platform for delivering content. Before you dive into developing mobile Web applications, read about some issues that you need to consider.
When targeting handheld devices such as mobile phones and PDAs, there are many design consideration to be taken into account, not least the limitations in terms of screen resolution.

While screen resolution is an issue with regular Web browsing, the actual screen dimensions are important when dealing with mobile devices. Screen-size limitations are an issue because the majority of Web sites are designed to be viewed on desktop-sized displays. Their page layout assumes that users can view large portions of a page at once.

The much smaller page excerpts displayed on a handheld device screen interferes with page functionality and user comprehension. The result is that users have to spend an inordinate amount of time awkwardly scrolling up and down as well as left and right.

Content is king
Due to the space limitations, developers should be conscious of the following tips when targeting mobile devices:

Limit graphics: they are an excellent way to spice up a Web site, but their use is questionable when working with small screens. Also, many handheld devices feature monochrome displays, so rich colour graphics are lost. The most important text or information should take centre stage. If you must use graphics, limit their size to control download times. In addition, effectively use every pixel of a graphic and avoid unnecessary elements. On a final note, take advantage of the alt tag for images so graphic functionality is conveyed when/if images are not displayed.

Limit download times: Travel back in time to the initial days of the Web where dial-up connections with a 9,600baud modem was cutting edge, and you will understand the bandwidth limitations for wireless devices. So, you should develop scaled-down pages that eliminate the bells and whistles and deliver only what is necessary to mobile clients.

Carefully select content: Tailor the content specifically to the target user group by displaying only the most essential data.

Minimise page length and size: Scrolling on handheld devices is often limited, awkward, and it can be hard for users to keep track of their place with scroll keys and other pen input devices. With that in mind, you should limit the amount of scrolling required in a Web application. This may involve splitting normal pages into multiple pages for handhelds.

Architecting the site for handheld devices demands information that is effectively organised to maximise user experience.

Utilise standard HTML: Stick with standard HTML tags to ensure proper functioning of an application.

When developing applications for mobile or handheld browsers, your main focus is on the content. The reduced screen size relegates the extra items to the scrap heap.

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