About WAP Web Designing

As just mentioned, WAP is not a single entity, but rather a list of protocols and specifications. It is being developed under the guidance of the WirelessApplication Protocol Forum, originally founded by wireless industry leaders Nokia, Motorola, Ericsson, and Unwired Planet (which evolved into Phone.comand is currently Openwave). The WAP Forum web site is a good resource for the current state of wireless communications, including the complete WAPspecification documents.

The Wireless Environment

WAP addresses the special limitations and requirements of mobile phones and similar devices. The distinguishing characteristics are:

  • Small screen size. Only a small amount of information can be displayed at once.
  • Limited processing power.
  • Lack of a full keyboard, making it awkward for the user to enter information. There are some handheld devices that feature a full keyboard, but they are the exception.
  • Slow connection speeds. Currently, wireless connection speeds are around 9600 bits per second.
  • Costly access. Users are generally paying by the minute or the kilobyte to use a wireless application. It is important to allow them to access information quickly.

All of these factors guide the development of WAP technology and the design process of WAP application developers.

A WAP application is formatted using WML and WMLScript, the scripting language for adding interactivity to wireless applications. These files can be served from an ordinary HTTP (web) server.

WAP-enabled devices communicate with the web server through a WAP gateway (Figure). The gateway acts as an intermediary between the Internet and the mobile network, converting WAP requests into HTTP requests. A wireless device (such as a mobile phone) requests information via the airwaves to the gateway. The gateway uses the Internet via HTTP to request and receive a WML document from the web server.

Figure: Mobile devices access web servers through a gateway

Mobile devices access web servers through a gateway

Upon arriving at the gateway, the document gets compiled into WAP Binary XML (WBXML) before it is sent to the phone. The compilation process reduces the file size by replacing tags with specific single-character codes, and removing comments and extra white space. Once the document has been compiled, it is returned via the airwaves to the mobile phone.

WAP gateways are normally owned by wireless service providers, so you don't need your own gateway to provide WAP applications (unless you're a bank or some similar institution of means). You can serve your content from a regular, properly configured web server. The WAP gateway will find your information as any other web client would.

Serving WAP Content

In order to serve the documents necessary for a WAP application, you need to configure the server to recognize a few new MIME (file) types, listed in Table. Follow the instructions for your particular server for installing new file types.

Table: WAP-related MIME types

WAP-related MIME types

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