The greatest inventions in history have evolved from a need. They have usually solved a problem that plagued a lot of people. An iPhone microsite does just that. It solves a problem that plagues website owners and iPhone users worldwide.
The release of Apple’s iPhone revolutionized mobile phone technology and web browsing with its ease of use. One of the most talked-about features of the iPhone has been its ability to use Safari to browse the “real” Internet. However, until recently, this appealing idea has proven to be less than rewarding insofar as the larger pixel configuration used by most websites designed to display information on a full screen did not translate well to the iPhone’s different shape and size. Because of that, the iPhone’s ability to see and access data and pictures on most websites was plagued by problems and content which was hard to read and interact with – until now.
Enter the iPhone Microsite
We’re beginning to see the arrival of websites formatted specifically to fit the iPhone’s small screen and unique configuration. In addition, we’re seeing techniques developed that make iPhone compatible websites capable of visually displaying and selling products, over secure satellite connections, and accessed by mobile phones from anywhere in the world. This phenomenal event opens up vast new, previously untapped, worldwide markets to every company (big or small) seeking to increase their market share and to every individual who has a product to sell – a marketer’s dream. Overseas demand for US goods is known to be high because of differences in foreign exchange rates. The unique websites that make this all possible are called iPhone microsites. Below is an introduction to some of the features and capabilities of iPhone microsites.
Some of the many features which make mobile browsing so advantageous for iPhone users also present new usability concerns of which regular website owners and developers should be aware.
Unlike traditional websites, an iPhone microsite is properly formatted to display on iPhone and iPod touch. It is capable of faster browsing due to optimized content, enhanced link highlighting to assist in navigation, and graphics and buttons that work seamlessly with the iPhone’s finger browsing. It looks, behaves and responds in the same manner as a typical iPhone application.
Apple’s CEO, Steve Jobs, has stated: “We are all born with the ultimate pointing device—our fingers—and iPhone uses them to create the most revolutionary user interface since the mouse.” IPhone users are now surfing your site with their fingers instead of a mouse. They may flick, pinch, double tap, one or two-finger drag or hover to display an information bubble – and a lot more! But they will not point and click, right click, use the mouse wheel or interact with your website using any mouse actions they have used in the past.
A microsite enables horizontal scrolling by limiting columns to a width of 320 pixels when held upright (or 480 pixels when held sideways), a standard practice for iPhone applications. It typically uses larger fonts to minimize unnecessary zooming and it breaks content up into more appropriately sized blocks.
A microsite may compliment a regular website by automatically detecting and reacting to iPhone visitors, allowing a business owner to serve them optimized content. It can also stand alone, being identified with a unique url separate from the one used for your main Web site, and often denoted by adding an iPhone prefix (iphone.yoursite.com). The popular movie service Fandango’s microsite, for example, has an iPhone microsite (shown at left) and allows iPhone users to view showtimes, purchase movie tickets, search for theaters and get information on their favorite shows, directly from their iPhones.
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The age of the mobile ordering device is here. The first companies to establish their presence with iPhone users will enjoy a huge advantage. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, one way or another, you’d better find a way to get on the iPhone microsite train – otherwise, you could find yourself standing at the station while your competitors enjoy the ride.