Mobile stuff

Last time, I reported that I had found and installed the Google Mobile app on my phone and I had noticed it froze periodically.

Once, I wasn’t even able to answer an incoming call and I was afraid that I had managed to turn my phone into an unresponsive brick. Fortunately, all was well after I reset the phone completely by removing and replacing the battery and sim card. The phone and Google Mobile are now working perfectly together and the app is proving to be very useful.

The app provides a unified interface from which you can use Google to search your messages and contacts on the phone or for anything you need to find on the Web as well. It can also be used to access your mail account on Gmail, your Google calendar, your documents saved on Google Docs and, indeed, any other Google services you happen to be signed up for.

I will continue to fiddle with Google Mobile and report back but, for the time being, it seems as though it is a useful addition to my mobile phone.

I said last week that I have come around to the idea of mobile Internet access, having been surprised how useful I have found it. The one fly in the ointment when it comes to accessing information on the go is that there are so far relatively few websites which accommodate visitors who view them on smaller screens.

Many websites, including some published by tech-savvy organisations, are a nightmare to view on smaller screens. The trouble is that you keep having to zoom in and out on the page to find what you want to read, and it gets tiresome pretty quickly.

One pretty good solution to this, as I have recently discovered, is to download and install a special mobile Internet browser such, as Opera Mini. It has a ‘Mobile’ setting which will compress the page content down to a single column so that you don’t have to keep zooming. The results are often not perfect but they are way better than not using a special browser.

Sites designed specifically to cater to mobile visitors provide the easiest viewing and site navigation and one of the best of these, is the Telegraph’s mobile website which can be accessed at m.telegraph.co.uk. It runs in parallel to their main site and contains a lot of the information published there.

I guess the reason why so many websites are not mobile-friendly is firstly, that the owners have not yet woken up to the growing mobile market and, secondly, that the cost and effort involved in creating mobile-friendly webpages from existing content can be prohibitive.

One solution for site owners going forward, is not to create websites with separate static pages but to use a Content Management System (CMS) which keeps the content of the site in a database and serves it up as required. Changing the look and feel of such a website is easy to do just by selecting a new template or by editing the existing one.

Blogs and certain web hosts provide this technology for their users and it ensures that they never get stuck with a huge website that will be difficult to change. I use WordPress on this site and the system is intelligent enough to determine if the user is using a mobile phone to view the site and, if so, optimising it for small screens.

I feel that anyone publishing on the Web today has to bear in mind that their product may not always be viewed on a large screen. I also feel that anyone with a website has to be committed to updating it regularly, but that’s a story for another time.

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