Mobile CSS is a Reality
Tuesday 15 June, 2004 ( 5:18PM GMT)
The response to the mobile CSS support test has been fantastic - thanks to everyone who has helped out. Hopefully I'm not the only one who finds these results helpful.
All in all I would say that the results are encouraging. There appears to be enough support for the
handheld media type (much more than I expected) to warrant the use of a media-specific style sheet, just as you can for print. And as the mobile market increases in size and technological capability, this seems like a sensible thing to at least think about (does anyone really doubt that the mobile internet is going to play an important role in the future?), if not already practice (the future's here!).
Those devices that only support the
screen media type (which is meant for large screens - desktop or laptop monitors) are the ones that will cause problems, but these seem few and far between, and, from what I can gather, something that is fast becoming a thing of the past as newer models seem to be eradicating this erroneous behaviour.
Personally, I'm not that fussed about those that do not support CSS at all - well-structured HTML should be presented quite well by default with content that is quite accessible. Besides, there isn't much that can be done about this. I also genuinely think that this lack of support won't last long. Yes, HTML browsing is a good first step, but there are those coming along in leaps and bounds...
The cutting edge PDA browsers from Microsoft and Opera (the popularity of the latter of which I think I underestimated) are making their way into phones and the way things are going, full-on mobile CSS is a reality. It's already here on some popular devices and as technology improves and becomes cheaper I can't see things going any other way than along a CSS-supported route.
So in practical terms, a mobile-specific style sheet is a viable option, but you need to take into account that, at the moment, an apparently sizable chunk of mobile browser share (Pocket IE) also apply styles that are supposed to be specific to the "screen" media type. This means you can't separate
handheld (and if you think you're hiding your styles from these devices by just using a
screen style sheet you're sadly mistaken) and you have to take into account the cascade and overrule any screen-specific styles you don't want in your handheld design.
Just like the desktop web, users are already demanding more and expect better features. Small screen design is an area with clear practical problems when it comes to tables and spacer gifs and perfectly lends itself to web standards and CSS. Device manufacturers are realising this, now it's time for the web designers to catch on and take advantage of this burgeoning market.