Create a Mobile, PDA-Friendly Version of Your Church Website in Minutes

With all the mobile announcements today (the new Treo 680, Google’s mobile maps and Mossberg’s review of the Sony Reader), let’s look at how to make a mobile version of your church website. In just a few steps you can reach out to those parishioners using PDAs, Avantgo or browsing on a smart phone.

Design It

1. Pick a short URL. Your parishioners may be typing it in on a mini-keyboard or a phone pad. Yoursite.org/pda or /togo or even /m are good choices. /smartphoneversion isn’t.

2.Start with a blank web page. It can have a .html extension, .php or whatever it is you use on the rest of your site. Add the following meta tag in the head of your code:

<meta name="HandheldFriendly" content="True">

3. Keep the formatting short and plain to work with small screens. Avoid tables. Use default fonts and don’t try to set point sizes or fiddle much with the style since you won’t have much control over the rendering on small devices.

4. Don’t eat up a lot of space with navigation on all the pages. Have your main content on the PDA home page as a bulleted navigation list and let parishioners use their back buttons to get around.

Add Existing Content

This isn’t going to be your main gateway so find content you already have on your main church site, such as:

  • Main contacts
  • Driving directions
  • Mass schedule
  • Maybe even a subway map

That’s your set-it-and-forget-it content. If you can do weekly updates, try:

  • Sunday bulletins (plain text, not PDF!)
  • Homilies
  • Major events

You can cut-and-paste those in to the same pages as updates become available. Or you can use an include-statement to pull in your content from a database or other source. On the St. Charles Borromobile site, for example, homilies are pulled from the same file used for the printer-friendly version on the main site, which requires only one line of code to change.

Make a Date

One last thing—include a “last updated” note on the PDA home page. Our users have commented this lets them know whether they need to refresh/resync or not.

UPDATED December 11, 2006
Include your parish’s phone number on your mobile homepage since most phone-based browsers will automatically turn telephone numbers into clickable links. It’s a great option for visitors who, already having a phone in their hands, may want more information.

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6 thoughts on “Create a Mobile, PDA-Friendly Version of Your Church Website in Minutes

  1. […] The Washington Post’s “In a Tech-Savvy World, the Word of God Goes Mobile” covers the growing popularity of delivering Christian content to mobile phones. Everyone carries the devices and loves pimping them to reflect their personality so it’s a natural fit for evangelization. If you’re ready to do the same for your church site, check out my Create a Mobile, PDA-Friendly Version of Your Church Website in Minutes post. […]

  2. Hello,
    I have been searching all over the web for information and help on how to create a click-to-call link for a pocket PC. I noticed this page mentions to include one, but I’m not sure where to find the actual coding to do so. Can you help? Thank you in advance!
    Jill

  3. Jill,
    First try the default browser to see if it turns phone numbers into hyperlinks that automatically dial. Using the Direct Marketing Association telephone number as an example, create a page that reads 202-955-5030.

    If that doesn’t work, try

    <a href="wtai://wp/mc;2029555030">202-955-5030</a>

    To add it to a phone directory, use:

    <a href="wtai://wp/ap;2029555030;DMA_WashDC">Add DMA to Your Contacts</a>

    See http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/wireless/2004/02/06/mobile_browsing.html
    and
    http://developer.openwave.com/dvl/support/faqs/faq_wml_programming.htm#11
    for a number of examples covering WTAI (Wireless Telephony Application Interface) and WAP standards.

    I haven’t tested this one, but you could also try:

    <a href="tel:+2029555030">202-955-5030</a>

    Another workaround is using Skweezer, a free service that will handle these type of mobile browsing functions. It’s described at
    http://www.greenlightwireless.net/skweezer/
    or on your phone go to http://www.skweezer.net/

    Hope it helps. Let us know how it turns out.

  4. Hi Daniel,

    Glad you found the tip and appreciated it. My involvement with PDA versions of sites started with variations for Avantgo, which were pretty straightforward. It gets a little more complicated with links for making phone calls.

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