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Mooving to the Mobile Web

By Kirk Harr · Thursday, November 21, 2013

Tags: browsers, mobile

With the rise of the myriad of mobile phones, tablets and other devices that are connected to the internet, the potential users for a given website have both increased in number and morphed in their needs in terms of a user experience. As anyone who has attempted to use a website not designed for a mobile phone browser with frantic pinch-zooms to find a tiny page control, right next to four other controls that do something totally different in a menu, can attest this is really not ideal.

And meanwhile from the other perspective, for web developers, the notion of a fragmented user base over everything from a desktop PC with a modern browser to an embedded PC built into my new LCD TV needing to view your pages gracefully can be a scary prospect. The thought of maintaining independent versions of your web infrastructure that fit each of these major use cases would likely scare everyone in your company, especially the finance people cutting all the checks.

So what is a company facing this new reality of the modern web to do? One particular solution can help to alleviate one of the more troublesome issues with new devices browsing the Internet, mobile phone display. While the phones themselves are starting to come with resolutions comparable to a modern desktop or laptop PC, the screen size relative to your finger that is selecting inputs, leaves a far less precise pointer than a mouse. This is precisely the problem described earlier, as those page control designs with multiple options in a menu, comes from the design era when a precise mouse click as the input method was the norm. Additionally, with the smaller screen size, it is necessary to more prominently highlight certain aspects of the page design, like images of featured products, to keep the same level of emphasis of those images on the user who will view them.

One firm that is implementing a version of this solution that I recently helped implement for a client is Moovweb. For web developers, this technology will allow them to accomplish those goals of making page controls more usable on mobile phones, make featured elements of page layout stand out more effectively on a mobile phone browser, without actually maintaining a separate version of their site, optimized for mobile users. Moovweb will make a request to your site, optimize the content for mobile (behind the scenes) and the send that optimized response back to the user's device. In this manner, the page contents will always be updated automatically for the mobile sites, based on what is present on your current live site. Which page elements are selected to be displayed on the mobile page, and how they are displayed are all configurable options within Moovweb's controls, and you are also able to use a number of pre-built templates based on web software packages that are common.

Technical Details

How does Moovweb accomplish this sleight of hand -- tailoring the response based on the device requesting the information? The secret lies both in JavaScript and DNS. Firstly, in order to setup your domain for Moovweb, you need to create a sub-domain that requests from mobile devices would be forwarded to, which would actually point to Moovweb with a CNAME record. Here is an example from the setup documentation:

If your domain was example.com, and the mobile sub-domain you had selected was m.example.com you would create a CNAME record for:

m.example.com.     IN     CNAME     m.example.com.moovdns.net.

This would point any request to m.example.com over to the Moovweb servers, which will then carry out the forwarding of the requests back to the mobile browser of the user once the template had been applied to the page design and crafted the mobile version of the site.

For the JavaScript setup, a

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