Transforming Phone-based Interfaces for Web Access: from WML to UsiXML

Nowadays, the web service providers are doing great efforts to satisfy the growing variety of mobile clients. As a result, the diversity of mobile Internet services and devices is rapidly increasing.

However, most of the currently available WAP services are not generic but they have been tailored to specific WAP devices. The selection of WAP devices is expected to range from mobile phones to palmtop computers. Even if the service is generic, it has been designed according to the minimum client device. Then the service cannot utilize the more advanced features of other devices. As more devices will be available on the market, it will require more and more efforts to maintain device-specific services. Adapting the contents to different devices, networks and user preferences will be a big challenge for service designers.

In a WAP study, Marc Ramsay and Jakob Nielsen describe a situation where two users access the same site with different phones. One of the users describes the site as “fantastic”, and the other says that the site makes him feel “aggrieved”. The latter user could see the index of a restaurant guide but every time he tried to access the information itself, he got the message “wrong address”. These kinds of problems arise when designers have omitted to take into account the different capabilities of the WAP devices and the different interpretations of WML code on the browsers.

Different from WAP, the Japanese i-mode is a closed specification. The operator (NTT DoCoMo) [13] is both in charge of delivering the devices and offering the services, and the operator also selects the services to be provided. In this approach, service providers do not need to worry about the adaptation of services

Focus on this issue, within the scope of this thesis, we only concern about the adaptation of WAP User Interface for Web access. As the contents of the WAP services are implemented in Wireless Markup Language (WML) and WMLScript, to be more concrete, we take the User Interfaces which is written in WML 1.1 as the start point for the User interface adaptation for the case of this thesis. A description of WML is presented in the chapter 4.

As we taking the User Interface reengineering techniques to facilitate the adaptation of WML User Interface, within the scope of this thesis, we only concentrates in the first stage, in other words, in the reverse engineering process in order to transform the existing WML UIs developed for a mobile phone into a logical representation for other platform that was not initially planned without loosing the development effort. So we don't consider constraints imposed by the target platform such as: operating system, programming language, screen resolution, interaction capabilities. The goal is to reuse the existing design if possible.

To support the reverse engineering process, we have developed a reverse engineering tool that allows a flexible recovery of the presentation model from the WML UIs. For the target language of the presentation model, we choose the Concret User Interface (CUI) model of USer Interface eXtensible Markup Language (USIXML) among the different User Interface Description Languages (UIDLs). The reason for the choices of technology is presented in the chapter 2.
M.Sc. thesis
Université catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium