Apple did an amazing job of making the iPhone Safari web browser work with existing sites. But there are many sites it won’t work with. If you have a site that’s useless, or even hard to use on the iPhone, you should ask yourself the following questions:
a) What are the odds someone with an iPhone will view my site?
b) What will I lose if I don’t accommodate that user?
c) What is the cost/benefit of making my site work with the iPhone?
What kind of content do iPhone users access on their li’l web browsers? I, for one, mainly wait to look up sites until I have a nice big screen, unless there is an immediate need. I think it’s safe to assume this is typical. I’ve looked up restaurants and lodging. I’ve looked for particular retail stores (where can I buy a bottle of Advil at 11pm), and I’ve looked up attractions like parks, museums, trails… But you know better than I do, if you fit that list. If you do, it might be worth an investment.
What will you lose? If the transactions you handle are small, and the odds of finding customers this way are small, the cost/benefit may not be high, but don’t stop reading…
The other half of cost/benefit: What will it cost?
It might take a good developer all of 2-5 hours to make your site better, if not ideal, for iPhones. What should change?
Alternative home page: Got flash? You need alternative content for iPhone users. Even if the iPhone adopts Flash soon (we all hope it does) likely your Flash presentation will need rethinking given the scaling issues, and readability.
You don’t need to redo your whole site… Likely the user is just trying to find your contact information. IF you need to work on the cheap, just put your logo, what you offer (sales and/or services), contact info, and a link to Google Maps. You might also welcome them as iPhone users, so they know they’re looking at a special site, just for them. Why Google Maps, and not Mapquest, et al? Simple: the iPhone has a specially-developed Google Maps interface. It’s easy to use and navigate on the iPhone. When the user clicks the link, it’ll go to that map browser, automatically.
What else can you do?
If you have a modern XHTML site without Flash, it might work just fine. But there are little tweaks that might be worthwhile. Consider how the iPhone does web pages:
A double tap zooms into chunks of content on a page, and rotating the phone makes the browser wide, instead of tall. Links and buttons work pretty normally, but forms do some unusual things.
a) Put some line spacing in, so text is easy to read. This is called “leading” in the print world. I usually use 1.2em for small body text.
b) Put some padding between your buttons and links, so its easy to click the right link, not the one next to it.
c) Don’t make people click tiny icons.
d) Use <div> tags with zooming in mind.
e) In forms, drop-down menus become scroll wheels. They might be a good choice over “Radio Buttons”.
f) Make frequently-used form fields (like login areas) widely spaced and easy to zoom. Try to limit typing, whenever possible. If someone types their information once, keep it in a cookie to automatically fill later fields (like the e-commerce fields).
These suggestions are just a start. Please comment below if you have other ideas! And if you have other questions, contact me.
The iPhone doesn’t do Flash (yet) and it also has a rather small screen.