Mobile Browsing: Can Your iPhone Access State Portals?

Government Technology grades state Web sites on their mobile-phone friendliness.

by / February 19, 2009 0

With mobility having transformed from novelty to necessity, millions of Web sites are being optimized to better serve users who access them via mobile devices. The mobile devices people use to access these sites are also changing. Laptops and tablet PCs remain common, but more than ever, people are surfing the Web on their smartphones, using preinstalled mobile-browser software. In many cases, this software is proprietary, and depending on a user's network or location, Web browsing speeds can vary wildly.

Interactive Map: Rating the States

To keep the click count high, more Web sites are offering users a mobile version of existing sites. Due to phones' small screens, cumbersome interface and differing speeds, these mobile sites, often at a URL such as http://m.sitename.com or http://www.sitename.mobi, typically display fewer and lower-resolution graphics and feature hyperlinks to only the most pertinent information. YouTube, for example, has a mobile site at http://m.youtube.com that serves up videos to users on BlackBerrys and iPhones. BlackBerrys and iPhones don't support Flash, the standard video format YouTube uses. So the mobile site streams videos in Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP), a format both phones do support.

YouTube is just one example of a popular Web site optimized for the mobile user. Google, Yahoo, Facebook and countless others have also optimized their sites. So how has this movement to mobility changed state government Web sites? That's the question Government Technology sought to investigate. In our test, we visited every state Web site on both a desktop PC and a BlackBerry Curve to see which sites were best for smartphone browsing. State sites were graded using an A, B, C, D, F scale. These grades don't reflect an evaluation of any site were it to be visited on a PC or laptop. The grades apply strictly to how the sites function on a BlackBerry Curve.

In the interest of full disclosure, our site, www.govtech.com, does not feature a version optimized for mobile phones or a text-only version.

Chad Vander Veen

Chad Vander Veen previously served as the editor of FutureStructure, and the associate editor of Government Technology and Public CIO magazines.