Personal and Professional Blog of Rich Hauck

The Death of Mobile CSS (Oh, and I got an iPhone)

by: Rich Hauck

Well, I suppose this makes me a bit of a hypocrite given all of the criticism I had for it, but at least I saved $200… Yes, i got an iPhone and am posting with it now. After my first day it’s left me wondering how I survived without it, and the decision to purchase it made me accept the fact that it’ll still be some time before RFID, semacodes, .mobi sites and 3G become commonplace (Okay, I doubt .mobi will ever take off).

Using one firsthand has also reinforced my firm belief that mobile css will never reach full fruition. let’s face it, what client will want to pay for a Web site to be built twice, especially when one version severely compromises the user experience? Furthermore, what user wants a limited version of a Web site? Alas, mobile CSS will probably prove to become even more anonymous than its sibling, print CSS…


5 thoughts on “The Death of Mobile CSS (Oh, and I got an iPhone)

  1. Dave says:

    Congrats on your new iPhone!

    I think you are failing to see the value of cross-media CSS development. The point is not to develop redundant websites for each medium individually, but to construct your interfaces in such a way that they are accessible to a traditional computer as well as a web-enabled mobile device (or printer, or screen reader, etc). You do this simply by separating presentation from content, and being as concise with your markup as possible. And, if you’re doing a flash-based application, follow the 508 spec and make alternate content available. As cool as the iPhone is, not everyone will own one, and people will always want to get information fast. Especially if you’re using AT&T’s EDGE 😉

    You are somewhat right with your remark that mobile-friendly CSS development will never reach fruition — but I think the reason is because so few web firms are building websites as conscientiously as they should be, not because it has no value. The iPhone browser certainly makes up for this mass oversight by rendering all/most sites as they were meant to be seen… so the consumer wins, and that’s a great thing… the downside is less incentive for us developer geeks to be mindful about how we construct websites…

  2. Rich Hauck says:

    This isn’t a matter of redundant Web site development or disputing the application of XHTML standards–I’m talking about an industry essentially pushing to build a site once and only once. When was the last time you had a client have concerns about the mobile version of their site? I’ve had opportunities to recommend print CSS functionality, but mobile CSS is simply not in demand because of:

    1. Limited Audience. Costly data plans, poor phone usability, and slow connections have discouraged widespread user adoption. Fortunately, this is changing with technology advancements and lower costs, but why would a client want to financially endorse a technology that (for the most part) goes unused compared to the PC browser?
    2. Lack of Standards. Unlike the Web, there are no standards in place for mobile phone hardware. How are Web firms to optimally write mobile CSS when there are so many different screen/key formats? that can Should they be imposing WAP sites on smart phones that can handle the full Web experience?
    3. Technology/Interface Limitations. Slow processors, slow connections, and a phone interface (dialpad) that compromises the usability required for the Web.
    4. Cost. Simply put, it costs the client more to have a site developed and tested twice–for the PC browser and for mobile phones. I don’t think it’s a matter of Web firms being conscientious about building sites, either. There’s simply no need to invest the development time on a mobile site that goes unnoticed.

    You’re right, not everyone will have an iPhone, but I’m willing to bet that the iPhone’s impact on the industry will make the competition begin to develop more usable interfaces on smart phones for accessing Web content. This will prove cheaper for all parties, as it means:

    • Build the Web site once, deploy it everywhere, and save development time and cost.
    • Prevent compromising the usability of Web sites. Users will see a consistent message/inteface across mediums.
    • (Hopefully) lean the industry towards using Web site applications over phone OS-dependent applications
  3. David Bamford says:

    Hey Rich: I am wondering something about the iPhone that pertains to interaction feedback and the general trends of Apple products.

    With slick touch screens, which are cool no doubt there seems to be something being left behind. Tactile feedback when buttons are pressed. Do you think this is something that alters your interaction with a phone. Imaging if your keyboard with your computer were completely touch based with no sound for “reactive pressure” to make up a term.

    Would love to get your thoughts.


  4. Rich Hauck says:

    It’s an interesting topic you bring up; I always think of that scene in The Departed where Matt Damon’s character is blindly texting Jack Nicholson’s character while Damon’s phone is in his pocket. Obviously, that’d be impossible to do on an iPhone (good thing I’m not a rat).

    There are definitely cases in which physical feedback is more beneficial, however, this is not one of those cases to me.

    I tried out the Blackberry, the Treo, and the iPhone, and I actually really liked the Treo’s keyboard, not because it had physical buttons, but because of the generous spacing between the buttons. In general, I think the physical QWERTY keyboards were slightly laborious/more time consuming to press in (I’ve heard of Blackberry carpal tunnel sufferers and can understand why). I ended up with the iPhone since I think Apple tackled small-scale usability better. Given the limited physical room available, it’s better to provide an interface that can vary with its applications. Does that mean that in cases where space is widely available I’d want a touch-screen interface–like say on a TV remote or computer keyboard? Definitely not 🙂

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About Rich Hauck

Rich Hauck

I'm a creative technologist at Hauck Interactive, Inc. and an adjunct instructor at HACC. I live in Harrisburg, Pa. with my wife and three boys. I enjoy good coffee, Trappist beers, Orioles baseball, and good design.