This post targets Business Analysts and enthusiasts who are new to the design & development of mobile web arena. The compatibility issues for a Mobile Web is similar to compatibility issues with a Website.
When a Business decides to go for a Mobile Web (also called as Mobile Site, m-dot), they do have a few concerns with respect to Device & Browser Compatibility for their mobile sites. Typically, it might be:
- Will my Mobile Site be accessible on all smart phones?
- What all devices will my Mobile Site Support?
- Will the Mobile Site be accessible on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry or Symbian?
- Ensure we don’t lose Customers due to Mobile Browser Issues.
- How will the Mobile Site behave if users have a touch or non-touch devices?, etc. etc.
As a Business Analyst, your primary goal should be to capture the following Non-functional requirements as a general expectation from the Mobile Site:
- List of Mobile Browsers (Android Browser, BlackBerry Browser, Firefox for Mobile, Opera Mobile, Safari, etc) to be support
From the list of Mobile OS, you will eventually need to determine a list of default or supported browsers used on those platforms. However, you might also want to check with the business / client if they have any specific mobile browser expectation.
See the Mobile market overview by Peter-Paul Koch who is one of my all-time-favorite expert on browser compatibility & related research.
Now comes the fun part, for any mobile site, the major factors that lead to compatibility issues are:
- The Mobile Browser – i.e. How the website is content rendered in terms of HTML/CSS/JS and Image format support.
- Viewport Dimensions & Orientation – i.e. The screen resolution (Width, Height, Density) and Orientation (Landscape or Portrait) of the Mobile Device.
Ohk.. So there are so many browsers where do I start?
If you take a closer look on the list of browsers, you will see WebKit is the most widely used layout engine in the mobile browser arena (Yes, its like Internet Explorer for Websites!). Hence, if your mobile site is compliant with WebKit standards, most of your problems could be solved!
Wait.. Why most and not all of the mobile browser problems?
To understand this, you need to check-out The Great WebKit Comparison Table and find out what items/elements are supported and what not on different versions. (Typically these would be logged as Bugs / Defects in your Mobile Site project).
Also, as a note to advanced feature or functionality in your Mobile Site, you need to understand that Touchevents are also dependent on the Browser so it would be a good idea to check-out the Touch table and learn what functionality would work and what not on a particular mobile browser.
Then there are Mobile Browser Usage Statistics to help you narrow down in your pursuit to reaching out to maximum audience. e.g.
Mobile Browser Worldwide Statistics - Aug '10 to Aug '11
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
I believe in the above quote. My approach is to – “Know thy User!” (More on this will come up in my future posts.)
The Screen Resolution and Orientation of the Mobile Device affects the presentation layer elements. The presentation layer can be considered independent of the Height because it can be taken care of by “scroll” option. So the need here is to align your Mobile Stylesheets according to the Mobile Device resolution and orientation.
From a design & development point of view, it is necessary to understand:
To conclude, as a Business Analyst you need to list out Mobile Browsers & Mobile Devices as per the Scope of Work as a primary Non-Functional Requirement to avoid a lot of issues later during execution or completion of the mobile web project. For testing purposes, you can always compare and list out unique mobile devices (with mobile browsers) based on specifications in terms of Viewport, Orientation & firmware or downloadable Mobile Browser. This will be helpful if there is a device availability crisis at your organization and also help the team burn useful man-hours in non-redundant testing.