What’s wrong with [the mobile sites]? Well, first is the content: Most of it is truncated down to just snippets of information. Why? I click on my mobile web browser, I wait 30 real-world seconds for it to connect and grab information. Finally it’s there and what do I see? One paragraph of a story which tells me only the bare-minimum of information, or worse, a page of links for me to choose from so I can wait *another* 30 real-world seconds to get to some info. Great. I wouldn’t have pulled out my phone to read a mobile website unless I had 20 or 30 minutes on my hands (I’m getting an oil change or I’m on the bus, etc.). I’m bored. I’m trapped. Entertain me, don’t frustrate me!
There there’s the opposite of this where there’s just too much data. Just taking your website’s RSS feeds and slapping a “mobile” template on the page doesn’t count. First, the formatting may not be right for mobiles. Most of the mobiles I’ve seen aren’t super-picky about XML formatting (they learned their lesson from WML which would balk at lots of common mistakes) but the effort still needs to be there to close your tags, etc. Beyond that, the pages just may be too long.
But there’s more! The formatting of just about every website I saw is horrible. XHTML-MP phones can support all the basic formatting you need for a decent web page: alignment, font size, colors, tables, and standard images like gifs, jpegs and pngs and they support a basic version of style sheets called WAP-CSS. Every phone and browser renders differently, trust me, but hey, focus on the top 20% of the popular web browsers out there (which you would assume count for 80% of the web access) and you’ll be doing pretty good. There’s so much more that can be done for the mobile web.
Web and mobile are going to be different worlds for the forseeable future, so we might as well embrace this fact. So what I’d do is make an alternative area for your mobile content right away, but do it with an eye towards maintainability and findability. Creating a new mobile template for db-oriented data is actually a good idea, but just one version and watch your content lengths, image sizes and external links. If your mobile site links to another site, it better be accessible via a mobile phone as well.
John Battelle adds: “At its core is the open/closed issue. On the one hand you have an open platform, the web, that sports a robust ecology with all sorts of innovation and competition. On the other hand, over in the mobile world, you have this carrier-driven crap that is driven by one thing and one thing only: the carrier’s desperate desire to lock you in…Free the mobile web! Only when it’s connected, seamlessly and freely, to the real web will it blossom.”