I remember some years ago being involved in a User Agent Profile (UAProf) and content adaptation related project where the situation was a mess with device vendors and service providers not seeing eye to eye on adoption of the technology. Developers were trying to build the databases without much co-operation from the device vendors. Lately open source initiatives like WURFL seems to have picked up some interest and steam in the developer community. We have also started to see more and more sites like Google news, CNN mobile. At the same time we have a situation where browsers have become more capable. It seems to me when people choose to mobilize sites they need to pay attention to the target device characteristics more closely, particularly when the device is a smartphone with a capable browser such as those based on webkit, and a decent screen.
Some sites go absolutely bare bottom heading towards the lowest common denominator, like Google News. They are anyway not known for their aesthetics. CNN mobile I think does a better job. One of the issues is that of browser capability. But there is the other issue of display form factor. Both need to be addressed by these folks.
This morning after a long time I pointed my N810 towards Gizmodo site and I get redirected to m.gizmodo.com powered by Quattro Wireless. Out comes a list of links on a Mozilla based browser that is occupying the full screen and is very capable of displaying Gizmodo in all its glory. Really bugs the hell out of me. I get curious to see what User Agent information was being sent out from the browser and point the browser towards the AskApache site. The User-Agent and Accept headers are clearly indicative of the browser’s rich capability. The HTTP header will not state the size of the screen and that needs to come from a device profile database somewhere.
Then I went looking at the N810 entry in WURFL Db and I did see a Display section. I think information like this needs to be incorporated. UAprof vocabulary accounts for
BrowserScreenSize aspects of the hardware and the browser. Mobile site developers need to pay attention to these and use a profile database that has those information.
Till they can figure out the device characteristics correctly they should give an option to user to display the site in “classic” mode. Google does that in their main search page. But they don’t do that on their news page. Thankfully it does not detect my N810 as a mobile device or may be it is smarter than that. Sometimes with a device with a larger screen like E90 I would really like that to be the case. I dont’t remember if Google News detects E90 as a mobile device like it does with my E71 and dumbs down the news page. But on a E71 it makes some sense (E90 also has the two display challenge) and as long as I have my choices I am ok with it.
But the bottom line is there is much inconsistency in device capability detection and accomodation. I think this has become more and more important as more capable devices get out there, more of the well known sites go mobile, and mobile internet finally starts to take hold. I would really like people to add a “classic” mode option till we become perfect. May be everybody is mobilizing sites for the iPhone! Just a tad irritated.
Update: I just checked Google News site and looks like they now do have the Classic option in the mobile news page also and the page is looking better in general! thank you!