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  1. #1
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    At the end of the day, do I need a device database?

    I've recently been doing a ton of research on mobile development, and it seems there are two ways developers are directing users to mobile sites: either redirect the user automatically based on the user agent string or provide the user with a link to the mobile site. But once users actually gets to the mobile site, I still need to determine which image sizes, stylesheets, etc. to deliver to the page. So, regardless of how the user actually gets to the mobile site, will I still need to use a device database to determine the look and feel of the site, or is there a better way?

  2. #2
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    The main consideration is screen resolution and how this affects ui placement, rather than device. There's no more need to tailor per device than there is to do so per OS/Screen res on the desktop. A well designed mobile ui will perform equally well across ios/android/bb without having to pander to individual stylistic quirks.

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    Thanks, but I am not referring to only smartphones; our site also needs to work on feature phones (very limited CSS, no JS, etc). That is why I am looking for a way to handle device detection. I do not want to force feature phones to download assets that they cannot handle.

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    It's worth analysing the return on investment for the effort you'd need to put in to get every single mobile optimised, versus the reality of the traffic that it would get.

    Mobile use is still only a very small percentage of overall traffic (5%), and low end phones are a minute fraction of that (1/10 of that 5%). Is it worth expending the effort for 1 in every 200 visitors?

    If you still think it's a worthwhile endeavour then use progressive enhancement techniques to embellish a basic design with more advanced features. e.g
    http://www.conditional-css.com http://detectmobilebrowser.com/

  5. #5
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    Unfortunately, I don't think we really have a choice. The sites I work with are pretty content-heavy, and displaying all of the content on mobile devices that we would on a desktop/laptop/tablet would be a bit much. So it's not just a question of design, but also of content delivery.

    In that case, perhaps we'll use the user agent string to determine whether or not the user is on a mobile device, and then determine which content to deliver from there. Then, the only remaining question is how to deliver the properly-sized images. Oy.

  6. #6
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    if you are looking to target older phones then a device database such as wurfl or deviceatlas is the best way to go.

    We did a site recently that had to work on older phones. CSS media queries is difficult on these older phones as the support it limited and the state of the browsers is very different.

    If you are looking at using media queries to target older phones then have a look at

    Bulletproof Mobile Device Detection and Style Sheets without User Agent Detection or Server-Side ScriptingBushido Designs Web Development Blog

    We decided to use a device database so we could swap out the themes to 3 different distinct phone types then swapped out the css for individual browser.

    1 - Basic phones, limited javascript, small screen resolution (below 240px)
    2 - mid level, some javascript, css support okay. screen resolution 240 - 320
    3 - top end phones, typically running webkit screen res 320 +

    A lot of work but meant we can run html5 css3 and all the enhancements to top phones but fall back on basic or no js and run xhtml and appropriate image sizes.

    nearly forgot, check out this http://tinysrc.net/ if you think about using css media queries and worried about image size, this may be useful. I fancy giving it a go but not had need to use it yet.
    Last edited by ajf; Mar 11, 2011 at 16:50. Reason: forgot to add

  7. #7
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    Thanks, @ajf. I will take a look at those resources.

    -Matt


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