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Be Smart – Plan for Phone Browsers

Consider: Some cell phone plans are offering Internet capabilities for only $10 a month. Each provider is announcing the availability of different types of Smart Phones on what is nearly a daily basis. Many people can access email easily on their handheld devices and will soon expect to be able to access other internet content wherever they are and whenever they want it.

What does this mean for the average business with a web presence? It means that you want to optimize your site – not just for Google and other web crawlers, but also for small screen browsers.

Although there was some talk of needing a “mobile device only” version of every website, this kind of duplication is not necessary.  In fact, a cascading style sheet, or CSS, can be written into your web page, instructing the device as it loads your page, to optimize your site for the phone or PDA that is requesting it. So writing in CSS is the first step to optimizing your page for hand held devices and smart phones.

Use a program like the Openwave Phone Simulator to test your web page and see how it will look on a “generic” cell phone type device. If you know the specific parameters of a particular type of device (say, an Apple iPhone), then you can increase the parameters and get an accurate view.

Then optimize your content. Remember that too much text is too much for a smartphone device, and keep the articles short (no more than 500 words, on average). Many small articles with relevant links are better than one long article.

Make sure that the most important elements in your page will load in the center of the phone’s screen, and are accessible without scrolling.  Make sure your pages load quickly. Cell phones and smart phones have slower internet connections than most broadband providers, and you don’t want a clunky website that gums up the works. The customer will click the “close” box after a few seconds.

Many cell phone users will block the photos on your site from loading, so be sure to have relevant and interesting ALT tags that identify your photos. You want your page to make sense to the viewer who has no photo access.

With a little planning,  you will have a great website that is optimize for both PC and smartphone use.

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