This is one of several posts I originally made in 2005. Some of the specifics have changed, including the focus of my work from "some design and a some programming" to "full time web development". In general their message remains valid, so they're worth keeping around.
Internet on Small Devices
I am typing this from a BlackBerry device. While it is impressive to be able to log onto my web site on a wireless device and make changes, the small device form factor is necessarily not the most desirable for text entry.
For reading, it’s quite nice. I have been using various handheld devices for years, and find the screens easily readable, even for more than a few minutes.
This makes anything but terse emails somewhat … a slow and laborious process at best. I know I type a lot faster on a standard keyboard.
Text entry is another issue.
Handheld and mobile wireless devices are necessarily small. Unless you opt for a larger custom keyboard, that means using a stylus or a keyboard with keys the size of baby ladybugs. Other options do exist, such as voice recognition, but they’re not widespread in mobile devices and have limited usability.
This makes anything but terse emails somewhat of a chore to enter. It can be done, but it’s a slow and laborious process at best. I know I type a lot faster on a standard keyboard.
Form a designer’s standpoint, the Internet doesn’t change much. Sure, the form factor must be taken into consideration due to smaller screens. Years ago, support for web sites was sporadic and difficult to implement. Today, using CSS in a special style sheet, most handhelds can be directed to display content quite nicely. Even without special style sheets, today’s handhelds are orders of magnitude better than yesterday’s.
I enjoy my mobile devices for what they are, but don’t see them replacing my “real” computers any time soon. It’s not a limitation of the device, or a lack of power, so much as the form factor.