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Developing Website Pages for Smartphones

By Neville Silverman

Smartphone limitations

The Smartphone does not have all the features of a desktop PC - however with some ingenuity it can provide important information to the user. The Smartphone has two major limitations - the width of the screen (about 320 pixels to 640 for the iPhone 5) and the lack of a keyboard. The designer needs to work around these limitations.

Input Limitations

As to the character input limitations - the numbers 0 through 9 and A through Z can be entered via command buttons or a dropdown.

Screen Size

The height of the screen is not a problem, as the user can scroll down. The screen width limitation is not as limiting as it first seems. The font size which is acceptable on a PC needs to be reduced for viewing on a Smartphone. Hence more information can fit across the screen.

The user also has the option to pan and zoom - but this should be kept to a minimum.

Meta tags and CSS

The HTML Meta tag "viewport" (introduced by Apple, but supported by most mobile browsers) should be set in each Web page to ensure the Page displays exactly the right width. Otherwise the layout will be minuscule, and will need to be expanded by the user to an acceptable viewing size.

Due to the smaller screen size, site wide CSS layouts will need to be changed for the Web pages of the Smartphone. It will make life easier for the developer if the make and model of the Smartphone is standardised.

ASP.Net and Visual Basic

A Web page can be developed with the standard ASP.Net and Visual Basic skills - without having to become an expert in C++ or the Smartphone API. A Web page, developed in Visual Studio with Visual Basic will do very nicely. An ASP.Net Website will also have the ability to access an SQL Server database on the Server for corporate data. And there is no need to submit anything to an App Store for approval!

The ASP.Net controls such as command buttons and Hyperlinks can be used in a Menu to select other Web pages. Controls like dropdowns, labels and textboxes will all work - as for any Web page using a Browser on a PC. The Events of each Control work exactly as for any PC Browser.

Smartphones and HTML5

Almost all Smartphones support HTML5 to some extent (even though not officially approved by the W3C), so it is best to standardise only on the basic elements of HTML5 when writing a Web page.

Corporate Data

The Web page may not have the animation, glamour or performance of an application like Dungeons and Dragons - but the developer will be able to easily provide a Web page based on up-to-date corporate data in a completely satisfactory format.

The developer will have the full power of Visual Basic and ADO.Net to do editing, data retrieval and data updating to and from an SQL Server database on the Server.

Power to the user!

Neville Silverman, based in Sydney Australia, has been a Visual Basic programmer and Microsoft Access programmer and Database design specialist for many years.

He has created numerous Microsoft Access databases, SQL Server Databases and Microsoft Visual Basic systems for clients. He develops and supports software systems for the small to medium sized business. Administrative systems are custom built to fit company requirements - software solutions that are cost effective, efficient and user-friendly.

Optimising Access Database systems is his speciality. He has extended the useful life of many an Access Database system, avoiding the effort and cost of an SQL Server upgrade.

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