Wulf's Webden

The Webden on WordPress

Making My Site More Palm-friendly

I’m still enjoying my new Palm PDA and finding more useful things to do with it. One observation is that, while it is a boon to be able to surf the web from a wireless handheld, a lot of websites are difficult or impossible to use. It is not so much the size of the pages (although shorter ones are better for the small screen) as the amount of navigation and other clutter that needs to be worked around.

I have to admit that my own website has got a few lessons to learn in that regard. Fortunately, having been committed to accessible, CSS-based design, I’ve got a good starting point. However, things that work on a smallish screen, like spending a couple of hundred pixels to provide a navigation area down the right hand side, are a pain on the tiny display I’m exploring now.

The site does work with styles switched off, because I chose to place the menu after the main text, but I’m contemplating what else I can do. For example, I could only include the menu at the side if the browser can use javascript to alert me that the viewing area is at least 640px wide: users with a smaller screen (or without appropriate javascript support) can have a full menu at the end and a perfectly usable site while the site can still gracefully upgrade where possible. The external add-ins (like the del.icio.us tagroll) are also a bit of a pain – on the Blazer browser, they stop the page being available until they have loaded and, since you can’t see them at a glance, they don’t add anything to the site. I might store a cached sampler of the top tags and allow the user to click if they want to see the full set.

Mainly, I’ve got bright ideas and now need to find the time to implement them. However, two things have been done already:

  1. The number of articles per page has been reduced from ten to five. Since I’ve got a readily available index I think there is little to be gained by lumbering the front page with more.
  2. I’ve also used the facilities of my blogging engine (Blosxom) to create a PDA friendly flavour. At the moment, it’s like having the blog content without any menus at all but I’m planning on refining it so the visitor can browse in style but in a way suitable for very small screens.

And all of this means that one of the things I’m getting from my new Palm is an invaluable set of lessons in adaptable site design!

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