Wireless Firms Agree on Rules for Mobile Web Sites

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Some of the world's top wireless and Internet companies, including
Nokia, Vodafone Group Plc and Google Inc., have agreed on a set of Web
site development guidelines aimed at making it easier to surf the
Internet on cell phones.

The majority of cell phones today have Web browsers as wireless
providers hope to expand beyond voice services, but only about 19
percent of U.S.  mobile phone users regularly use the Web on their
phones, according to researcher M:Metrics Inc.

The Worldwide Web Consortium (W3C), a group backed by 30 industry
players, hopes to improve on this percentage by creating 60 guidelines
for developers to design sites that are easy to use on cell phones,
which have much smaller screens and tiny keypads.

"We're now seeing devices in users' hands that are capable of browsing
the Web, but they're not being used as much as they could be," said
Daniel Applequist, a Vodafone executive who chaired the group that
worked on the guidelines.

"The majority of Web sites out there do not work well on cell phones,"
he said, adding that if more Web sites were less awkward to navigate
on cell phones, they could attract more users.

The guidelines advise developers against using big graphics or pop-up
ads that could clutter phone screens.

They also suggest designing sites in such a way that the content
appears right at the top of a cell phone screen, allowing users to
avoid scrolling past multiple navigation links.

"A common problem is that you have a small screen, so when a Web site
loads, the navigational elements like home page or next page links are
the only things you see instead of the content you're looking for,"
Applequist said.

The guidelines also steer developers away from using cookies, which
store information on the viewer's computer to help Web sites remember
user preferences, enabling speedier navigation.

As cookies do not work on cell phones, developers need to find
alternatives, Applequist said.

Copyright 2006 Reuters Limited.

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