Mobile phone WAP sites

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mobile pic

First of all decide how you are going to provide your mobile content. The first decision is which technologies are you going to provision for:

  1. Structure content using WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) ‘mark-up language’ – WML. This is a bit like HTML but much more limited in scope.
  2. Structure content for handheld browsers using HTML (XML – XHTML). One popular browser is the Opera handheld browser.

There are many advantages with opting for providing WAP content:

  1. Nearly all handheld devices can see content designed for WAP.
  2. Nearly all the major service providers in most countries provide WAP services.
  3. The very tight restrictions are there to help you design for the small screen. For example, high resolution images and colourful links and backgrounds are not possible – because they are not appropriate for many phones. Regardless of bandwidth, phones are more suited for providing information – using just text. Screen size is too restrictive for visually spectacular sites or entertaining gimmicks.
  4. Functionality can be extended using dynamic scripting. It’s possible to add Java applets or interactivity – such as a PHP guest book – if you wanted.
  5. The simplicity of WML means the content layout is unlikely to be affected by the huge variety (a.k.a. hand-held-heterogeneity) in the way different mobile devices render styles.

There are also advantages for designing for handheld browsers:

  1. Handheld devices are the future. Mobile phones already have the processing power of a ten year old super computer.
  2. The design can be enhanced with colours and shapes and pretty pictures. (Flash Lite is also available for moving images and further enhancements.)
  3. It’s possible to have one ‘Site’ which can be viewed via computers through ‘the Web’ or via a handheld device through the phone network (both use IP).

If you go for the handheld browser option some would advise it’s still best to offer two separate websites – one with content, as well as a layout and styling, that’s more appropriate for mobile phones. If you organise your content using XML, creating a handheld site is simply a question of restricting the amount of information you provide.

Others would advise having just one site, then using CSS rules and some detection scripts, so that the content supplied is modified to suit all possible devices.

Here’s where you can see Ekstasis.net on your mobile!
Ekstasis mobile

      • For WAP – http://ekstasis.net/wap.wml
      • For handheld browsers – http://ekstasis.net/handheld.php

Both sites use include some simple PHP scripting so that every time a visitor views the site the content is different:

  • Picture of the day,
  • Random quote,
  • Random thought &
  • WAP link of the day

OK, so it won’t fill up the dark fiber. If you’re using the Opera or X-smiles browser in your phone you can see the handheld CSS in action.

Creating a WAP site

WAP hasn’t caught on as well as expected and may soon become outmoded with the advent of new standards for wireless telephony. Many would say it’s undervalued because there isn’t enough interactive content designed especially for WAP

You need a WAP enabled host if you want to create a WAP site. My web host didn’t advertise they provided this service but I asked if they could and found out they provide it free of charge. My host is Netpivotal.com – I’ve been happy with them.

The coding is very similar to XHTML, but instead of [body] web pages [/body] you have [card id=] cards [/card]

The doc type is as follows:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE wml PUBLIC "-//WAPFORUM//DTD WML 1.1//EN" "http://www.wapforum.org/DTD/wml_1.1.xml">
<wml>

You link to other cards using a href tags and anchors: <a href="#second">Next: The second page</a>

You link to other 'decks' as follows: <a href="home.wml">Home</a>

Images should be wbmp format. Just using simple, clean black and white vector graphics is good - shades of grey can look a bit rubbish. Scripting can be used to supply more advanced mobile phones with better quality images.

Proper XML is needed here - make sure you validate it as it's easy to make an error.

Links for WAP / WML development:

Links for handheld browser development:

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