WAP development differs from Web development

WAP development differs from Web development

There are seven big differences between conventional Web sites and those based on the Wireless Application Protocol, according to Steve Heckler, president of WestLake Internet Training of Arlington, Va.

  • The conventional Web breaks content down into pages. In contrast, WAP sites designate cards as the smallest units of content, and the cards in turn are grouped into decks.

  • A WAP browser downloads an entire deck of cards at once. When a link is clicked, often the next card will show up instantly from the browser's memory, instead of downloading from the server.

  • Conventional Web pages are written in Hypertext Markup Language; WAP sites are written in Wireless Markup Language. Learning WML is only marginally more difficult than HTML.

  • Microsoft Corp. and Netscape Communications Corp. are the dominant providers of browsers for the conventional Web. Openwave Systems Inc. of Redwood City, Calif., and Nokia of Finland are the dominant providers of mobile WAP browsers.

  • Today, WAP browsers exchange data with the Internet at a very low rate: just 19.2 Kbps, compared with 33.6- to 1,500-Kbps home connections or office connections as fast as 45 Mbps.

  • Conventional Web sites are designed for viewing at 640- by 480-pixel resolution or better. WAP sites, however, have only 96 pixels by 64 pixels, and many WAP browsers can display only three short lines of text at a time.

  • Heckler suggested keeping the content of each card fairly short, preferably less than 20 lines, because scrolling on mobile devices is tedious. He also advised using and clearly labeling the phone's two assignable function buttons. Common functions include submitting a form or taking the user to another card.

  • Some WAP phones force the user to strike a key multiple times just to type a single character. Make more use of menus and less of text entry.

  • The Web is a graphics-rich environment; a successful Web site always has sharp graphical design. WAP sites, in contrast, can display only small Wireless Bitmap graphics. One or two graphics add a nice touch to a card, but Heckler advised sparing use because of limited screen real estate and bandwidth.

You can explore the wireless Internet by downloading a WAP browser emulator to a PC, Heckler said. The two leading emulators are the UP.Browser, downloadable as part of the UP.SDK from Openwave, at updev.phone.com, and the Nokia browser, downloadable as part of the WAP Toolkit from Nokia, at www.nokia.com/wap.

'Patricia Daukantas


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