Every now and again I bump into scenarios where iPhone specific web development is asked. Every time, I say we've been here before and tell people development for specific devices and platforms isn't the way to go.
We've just recently fought the web standards war, where we've strived towards the goal to develop one time and make sure what we develop can be consumed everywhere. It surprises me that very few have argued against the case regarding iPhone specific websites.
We must focus at giving users the best experience regardless of what device is used.
We can't focus at only one platform, even though the platform is popular. A couple of years ago, there was a different case - iPhone was in a world of its own. But this is not the case any more - today, we've got a number of handheld devices available on the market and some of these devices are perfectly capable of competing with iPhone.
It has today become more important than ever to make sure websites can be viewed on several different devices, and this won't change - the mobile web is for sure here to stay. The accessibility question is of highest importance - we must make sure the largest number of crowd is able to convey information, no matter what.
What we can't do is the mistake we did not so long ago - develop websites that works only in one browser - or one platform.
By developing websites that works everywhere, we'll be able to reach out to a severe number of users instead of the the few that uses iPhone - because when we look at it, the iPhone users are still few compared to the mass who can and will use mobile devices to use the Internet.
To sum this up:
Develop to give all users the possibility to find and read information regardless of devices and platform.
Don't do iPhone specific web development.
More often than not when you're at a download center and just want to download a file, you really have to search for the download link. This shouldn't be the scenario. Here's a minor case study on download links and how to make them more user friendly, plus a set of great examples.
Download links come in different flavours
When you want to download something, you have to look for a number of characteristics.
What you have to look for is a download sign, a link, button or an icon, that tells you where you can download something. And very often the characteristics of these download signs are confusing. Plus, what makes it worse; many of these signs are aimed at advanced computer users. Quite often though, even advanced computer users really have to search for a download link to find it. Not very good for usability.
What download links should give users
To make every visitor instantly spot the download link, download links should meet a number of requirements.
Download links should be simple - simplicity is the best friend of usability. A visitor should just have to spot the download link and click it.
Thinking of simplicity will improve the overall accessibility, since visitors by default will know where to get what. Accessibility means everyone should be able to download, without too much hassle.
A visitor should always know how to get a specific version of a download. Download centers must be clear on this – how can the user choose what to download? Where's the latest version? It's a good thing to highlight the latest version of a download, since that version probably attracts the most visitors.
Also, a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section might be of great help. Many visitors have questions that need answers and by providing the answers, visitors will get satisfied.
Some great download centers
There are some great download centers and they do their stuff great. Here's a set of best practice download centers and what they do well:
Over at CodePlex, an open source community, you can find a lot of great downloads where information on them are provided in a satisfying way. Take for instance Silverlight Toolkit, which has an excellent download page with a get started part:
The start page is clear, you instantly know where to download the latest release, and you have a FAQ section (the forum).
When you click the download link, you couldn't ask for much more clarity:
What you get is two simple download alternatives, either Silverlight 2 or Silverlight 3.
The one improvement that is clear here, is to highlight Silverlight 3, since it's way more popular. Other than that, this is a great example of a download page.
FileHippo is a structured download center for all users. Even though the start page might be too informative, the specific download software pages are excellent.
FileHippo provides information on the download, such as description, technical information and a change log – a perfect approach in order to satisfy most visitor's demands.
Also, the download link is one of the best you'll see out there – it's visible, perfectly clear and does exactly what's expected:
In one click, you can download the latest version of a specific software and you get to know the file size. Excellent.
Take a look at the CCleaner download page for further inspiration.
Download.com has always been the one website for downloads. They are constantly improving the website too, while providing one of the best download websites you've ever seen.
CNET download.com gives you simple editors' reviews, clear download links and other helpful information on a specific download.
The download link is quite clear, with an icon, file size and a spyware free statement that says the file is safe for download:
Summary on download links
When providing a download link, make sure you keep it simple, that you're clear and the correct information is provided. Any user should be able to download any file.
CodePlex, FileHippo and CNET download.com are great examples of download centers, where you can find inspiration.