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DNN module development for mobile Smartphone platform - part 1

A couple of months ago organized the first European Day of DotNetNuke; a free conference for DotNetNuke users. The event took place in the conference centre of Microsoft in Paris and nearly two hundred attendees enjoyed a full day with key note by Shaun Walker, founder of DotNetNuke. Furthermore there were 24 Sessions by 28 profound speakers from the DotNetNuke Core Team, the European community and even guests from the U.S. Check out the event's web site for further details.

Salar Golestanian presented two sessions combined into one which lasted an hour and it included an overview of the mobile & smart phone market and how DNN can be applied to this fast growing market.

It is important to ensure that the DNN's web presence is aware of the mobile market. With its continued growth we need to be ready to embrace and reach out to this very important market.

Here are a couple of examples of growth within the mobile internet market;

  • It took roughly 90 days for the number of downloaded iPhone applications to grow from 2 billion to 3 billion
  • AT&T reported recently that in the US it is activating iPhone's at a rate of 1 million every month

Smart phones have emerged as a key player in the global mobile market, with a fraction of 15% of all devices shipped. This phenomenon is very important in both mature and emerging markets. Another future key player will be devices such as embedded laptops, iPad type devices and a plethora of M2M devices.

Today the main uses of mobile phone/smart phone devices are as follows

1- Social media (Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc...)
2- News
3- Search
4- Multi-user games

2010-2011 is likely to bring substantial transformation in the mobile operating system (OS) landscape. In a market that was once dominated by a handful of pioneers such as BlackBerry, Symbian, and Windows Mobile, new-comers are employing open source operating systems such as Google Android and Apple iPhone OS. With these new systems becoming consistently better over time and improving dramatically in their intuitive design, navigation and general usability.

Here are the main operating systems used in mobile devices:

1- Rim Blackberry
2- iPhone (Apple)
3- Symbian OS
4- WM (Microsoft)

DNN & Mobile Platform

It has always been a challenge to create mobile friendly DNN Portals that can be outputted to peripherals from the same instance of DNN. There have been some third party modules that have attempted to do this but not very successfully. In my opinion there are 3 main approaches in smart phone development approaches namely Native, Web and Hybrid (Web App + Native Mobile Platform specific App)

We have therefore been recommending our clients to think of two audiences with differing requirements in viewing and interacting with their applications. Therefore, the same content will not work for both platforms. Besides the obvious factors like the screen size and the need to alternate between landscape to portrait which does not apply to regular PC browsing, one has to appreciate that mobile users require fast loading times. Also as bandwidth is not as plentiful compared to WIFI, excessive waiting time will result losing interest.

Mobile browsers also are less able to cache the content and therefore every time they go to the page, they need to download all of the assets from the server. These factors mean that most likely the best approach to serve the mobile users is to have dedicated content available for them.

DNN and mobile applications (3 + 1 style of development)

There are many different types of mobile devices out there.  Now we also have devices like iPad entering the market and these slate type devices are causing even more pain for developers. For example, when attempting to view the iPad automatically pushes the user to I am sure this is not what an iPad user wants to view seeing as the iPad is capable of viewing the standard page.  I am sure that they will fix the glitch soon, but it shows that even Twitter with a huge development infrastructure cannot get everything right.

For the DNN world, we can consider the following options to deliver content or applications to mobile users:

1- Traditional web content and skin in your DNN Site
2- iPhone & smart phone web content in specific pages utilizing a mobile specific skinpack
3- iPhone App Development with dedicated functionalist or basically native development
4- The hybrid approach which is the combination of #2 & #3

In general we advise our customers to go for the last option if they have the budget and if they don't then to go for option #2. There are number of factors you need to consider and the advantages and disadvantages are outlined below.

Native Mobile App Approach:
1- Faster and the user has more perceived control 
2- App stores make it easy for users to update their apps when they are available
3- Improved security when popular app stores check apps before they are submitted
4- Better UI so standards are maintained and end users intuitively know what to do next
5- Data persistence - so the access to data is available even though no network connection is available
6- Currently only 3 App stores, Android Market Place, Palm OS catalogue and Apple Apps Store

Web App Approach
1- This will use open source solutions
2- Programming language is simplified with all platforms viewing the same app
3- UI design takes less time to develop
4- Faster development and no need to submit to App Store
5- Less secure and therefore people may not trust it as much as native app if security is a requirement
6- More difficult to find as the user will have to rely on search engines to find the app

Hybrid DNN Web App combined with Mobile specific app approach (see this example its also FREE)
1- Mobile friendly web app on DNN + simple app for mobile devices that displays part of the functionalist within the app
2- You need to have DNN skills, as well as multiple platform mobile app (iPhone. Android Blackberry etc...) 
3- This approach could be faster to develop than the native mobile app
4- If designed well then the end user cannot tell the difference between native and hybrid app & users think it is standard native mobile app.
5- Not all apps can be done this way

Mobile Friendly Pages in DNN

You really cannot get away with the standard crop of DNN skins with numerous column and pane structure running numerous modules and complex menu systems. You need to consider light weight skins as well as extreme care in the placement of your content.

We have a module on that can push mobile users to specific pages or you could perhaps create a child portal on your site that has optimised skin as well as optimised content. So just to cover, what are our choices? For example, go to using your iPhone or other smart phones devices, you will find you will instead go to

Fixed width skin with minimum content is only okay if the width of your content is no more than about 300px. You need to be very clever with this kind of design.

Fluid 100% width with minimum content and most certainly no more than one column of content can work for both your DNN site as well as a mobile site. It suits a variety of mobile as well as iPad type devices. However, this approach is not fashionable as far as web design goes.

Dedicated page or child portal in your DNN with dedicated mobile type skin as well as optimised minimalist content. More work is needed to achieve this and you could push people automatically to these pages if they are using mobile devices to browse.


One other thing to consider when doing the work for a mobile platform is to ask yourself, when do you need to launch the application? For example, if you are developing for January 2011, then it would be fair to think that more browsers would be HTML 5 friendly. Therefore you can use better standards cross platforms and better performance from your web app that when combined with faster smart phones and 4G enabled smart phones.  The end user could be very happy with the result compared to dedicated native apps.

HTML 5 will also bring about local storage as well as GeoLocation built in, so some of the existing advantages of native smart phone application development will vanish over time. However, new advantages for building native will come about no doubt. Therefore if you are developing anything for mobile platforms, skin/modules etc then the mobile friendly skin should use a very concise structure, essentially a simple set of DIVs for the various areas of the layout enclosed in HTML. Cross browser compliance may require you to use some tables just for the content panes and that should also be kept to minimum.

This not only keeps the size and complexity to a minimum, but also is good for SEO as it indicates the purpose of each section of the page to search engines.

Get the FREE DNN Module and Free iPhone App

Aim: - We created this module show you the possibilities of mobile web design. The requirement was to get DNN users information from devices, such as the iPhone, in a user friendly way so they can quickly check if their site is up and running. It also allows them to bookmark a page on their site for quick access.

Salaro_UserOnlineWS - DNN Users Online Web Service module will create a web service link to be placed in edit page of the iPhone native application.

The module function is a DNN Users Online information to be consumed on launch of the iPhone App, which has to perform using the web service URL provided by "Salaro_UsersOnlineWS " module.

Module installation guide:

1. Download the free module from here or , but it is probably easier by clicking here. (PLEASE NOTE THAT YOU DO NEED TO BE LOGGED IN AS REGISTERED USER)
2. Open your DNN site and log in as host.
2. Select menu host/module definitions.
3. Then click module definition icon. Refer to the following image:

4. Click 'install module'.
5. Browse to your modules location and select your PA file, then click next to where your module should be installed.

After installing the module into a page with short page name probably hidden on the menu on your DNN Site which will generate a web service link (please refer below images) the url would be something like

And Admin can change the page settings to hidden the page from DNN Menu.
Page Settings - > Include In Menu? -> Deselect the check box.

Do the following setting in DNN for displaying Users Online.
Host > Host Settings > Advanced Settings > Other Settings > To Check the Enable Users Online? Select the check box option to display Users online in iPhone App.

Installing the Iphone App:
Install the iPhone app through the App Store. Please note it is totally free. Once installed then you need to click the edit page and enter the Web Service and bookmark your favourite page so next time you can just launch the App and quickly get there.


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