Building mobile web sites: device detection

December 10th, 2010

I want to write a series of blog posts giving recognition and thanks to 3rd party and open source tool sets that allow the production and management of mobile web sites. The first topic is device detection.

One of the first problems we tackled in building our framework was device detection and how to do it. Initially we built our own detection grid – this was a mistake as it was very hard to scale and work out what we were going to be testing. In time we decided that WURFL was the better solution.

It is by no means perfect but has proved to be very robust bar the odd glaring exception e.g. classing the Blackberry 9800 as not being an advanced browser in the same class as the native Android browser.

WURFL stores profiles for ~14,000 devices. We use these device profiles to create 4 versions of our mobile microsites.  These range from supporting advanced CSS and AJAX through to not even supporting all HTML tags.

The basic mechanism when a user loads our page is:

1. Match the user agent against a device

2. Match the device against a profile

3. Serve up the site version that was designed to run for this profile

Having these profiles has also helped identify and simplify our testing requirements.

Mobile microsites

December 10th, 2010

Recently we looked at the framework we have built and what kind of service we could provide to businesses for their own mobile site.

The following issues arise when you plan a mobile website for your business:

1. You have to recognise that a mobile handset is requesting your site

2. You have to serve up an appropriate web page because some handsets don’t recognise some HTML tags or javascript

3. The style sheet may need to be different for each handset

We have created a framework which addresses each of the above using tools we’ve build ourselves or 3rd party APIs. As we’re all about location we’ve also created a location detecting tool which is merged with a free-input location search tool.

Another additional piece of the mobile puzzle is reporting. Mobile user agents can be very varied and cryptic while the addition of location presents additional opportunities for data capture and analysis.

So what have we built? Here are some examples:

Vauxhall

Starbucks

Lafarge

While these pages were designed to work best in iPhone and Android devices they should also look good in a Chrome browser.  We are in the process of rolling out a templated lowest common denominator stylesheet. For custom requests we have created a 4-version framework which we may in time roll out as default.

Ensuring that the Geocast mobile site is shown instead of your current site when a handset requests the page is done via a line of javascript dropped into your source code or via a server side redirection.

Pay monthly, pay as you go or make a one off payment

July 8th, 2010

A quick update to say we have created some new ways to ad budget to your Geocast account:

- Pay monthly – choose a monthly amount to manage your spending
- Pay as you go – make one off payment as an when you want
- Auto billing – ensure your business is always being advertised with auto billing

Of course, you can also manage your daily budget independently of how you pay ensuring you have total control of your ad spend.

Create a new account or login here

Flook using Geocast for in app offers

June 9th, 2010

We recently partnered with Flook, the local discovery mobile app, to supply   geo-relevant offers as part of the local discovery process. We love the iPhone app which has the most luscious of graphics and a  simple and yet inventive approach to finding local stuff (which is an eclectic mix of content).

TNW covered the integration better here while the Times Online blog waxes lyrical about Flook here.

You can download the iPhone app here.