When Web Content is Too Large to Fit the Screen
António Pacheco
Direcção de Análise e Gestão de Informação, Marinha de Guerra Portuguesa, Lisboa,Portugal
Carlos Serrão, Carlos Costa, Ferreira Dias
DCTI, ISCTE, Adetti –Ed. ISCTE, Av. Das Forças Armadas, 1600-082 Lisboa, Portugal
Keywords: Web browsing, PDA, small screen device, single-column view, thumbnail view.
Abstract: During the past few years the web has changed and something which has been developed primarily for
desktop computers can now be accessed from everywhere using portable and mobile devices. However,
these new devices have some serious limitations in terms of screen size and computational power, just to
mention a few. In order to display web pages designed for desktop-sizes monitors, some small screen web
browsers provide different approaches for this problem – however, these approaches have limitations. In
this paper, we have performed tests to five different small screen rendering web-browsers (Pocket Internet
Explorer, Minimo, NetFront, Opera, Opera Mini) while rendering some relevant web sites.
Web pages are typically designed with the desktop
PC screen in mind, and therefore often use multi-
column layouts and preformatted page widths. With
the WWW evolution, in the last few years, the web
domain is no longer dominated by this desktop PC.
New lightweight devices offering new mobility
options such as mobile phones and personal data
assistants are becoming more and more new ways of
navigating on the WWW. However the traditional
web is not adapted to these new devices, with
limitations from the screen resolution and processing
power point of view (Fowler, et al., 2004), therefore
requiring some type of adaptation. Traditional
WWW pages can be hard to rend on small screens.
If the pages are rendered unmodified, the resulting
page is much larger than the web browser screen and
users need to scroll both horizontally and vertically
to view it (Wobbrock, et al., 2002). To avoid the
need for horizontal scrolling, the majority of
commercially available small screen web browsers
provide a single-column viewing mode that
reformats the page by concatenating all its columns,
thus displaying it as a single, very long column
(Lam, 2005). This approach tends to work well for
helping users read pages, but affects the layout pages
so significantly, and users may find it hard to
recognize pages similar from desktop viewing.
However some mobile web browsers have different
behaviours with same components like frames,
menus or CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) styles
(Buyukkokten, et al., 2000). These behaviours could
provide better or worse web pages layout aspects.
In this section the paper introduces some of the
currently available Small Screen Rendering (SSR)
web-browsers, describing each and establishing the
comparison criteria among them. Five of the most
well-known and used SSR web-browsers were
selected to conduct this study: Minimo from
Mozilla, Pocket Internet Explorer from Microsoft,
Opera and Opera Mini from Opera Software and
Netfront from Access. The objective was testing
these web browsers behaviours presenting some
different and important Web Sites. In order to
conduct our comparative study of the mentioned
SSR web-browsers, the following approach was
established: 1) the authors selected a group of
relevant web-sites, with different levels of
Pacheco A., Serrão C., Costa C. and Dias F. (2006).
SMALL SCREEN RENDERING WEB-BROWSER COMPARISON - When Web Content is Too Large to Fit the Screen.
In Proceedings of the International Conference on e-Business, pages 145-150
DOI: 10.5220/0001427401450150
complexity and in different business areas; 2) the
SSR web-browsers were used to render each of the
sites individually; 3) each of the rendered web-sites
were compared side-by-side (one by each SSR web-
browser) and additionally compared to the same
web-site rendered by a normal PC web-browser; 4)
the rendering results were collected to establish the
comparison measures.
To ensure a common point of comparison, the
authors have selected just one of the many available
devices that currently can navigate and render web-
content – the device selected was the Qtek S200.
The following section of this paper presents each
of the SSR web-browsers highlighting its main
2.1 Minimo (Mini Mozilla)
Minimo is a free, open-source web browser for
Windows Mobile and is based on the Mozilla
codebase. Minimo is a small version of Firefox with
many of the same features offered. Minimo is open
source software, meaning that anyone has the right
to download and use the browser for free, to
distribute it unmodified to other people, and even to
view and modify the source code under the terms of
the Mozilla Public License.
This browser can coexist with Pocket IE because
it uses a different profile and does not interfere with
Pocket IE.
Minimo uses SSR (Small Screen Rendering) to
adjust the look and feel of a page via CSS. SSR
attempts to adjust image sizes, fonts, and layouts to
maximize page space. SSR also attempts to
eliminate side scrolling. To use SSR user simply
clicks the blue globe and choose SSR. This will
attempt to adjust the layout of the page to better fit
on the screen.
2.2 Pocket Internet Explorer
Pocket Internet Explorer is optimized for Windows
Mobile powered Smartphones, enabling users to
browse Web content, including intranet sites and
streaming video or music files - all in just a couple
of keystrokes. Pocket Internet Explorer supports
HTML and WAP, allows to surf, shop, or trade
online. The added security features help protect
online shopping or access to corporate data.
Pocket Internet Explorer for Microsoft Windows
CE provides a compact mobile Internet browser that
is optimized for devices with small, vertically
oriented displays and for cached or customized
content. HTML functionality for the mobile Internet
browser is equivalent to that of Microsoft Internet
Explorer, with support for tables, forms, and frames
(Addison, 2005). A fit-to-screen option dynamically
resizes Web pages to maximize viewing on hand-
held devices without requiring the user to scroll
across a page. A Zoom menu option allows the user
to view text on the screen in different sizes.
Pocket Internet Explorer offers the ability to
view web pages on a virtual 640 x 480 display and
scroll left and right to see the whole page. It also
offers a Fit to Page option which shrink fonts and
images for a better fit. It also supports HTML 3.2
frames, Java Script, XML (eXtended Markup
Language), 128 bit encryption, links to files (Excel,
Word, mp3, wma, etc.) and runs the application. It
does not support Java Virtual Machine, or Visual
Basic scripting (Baudisch, 2004).
2.3 Opera
Opera Pocket PC version is based on the same core
as the Opera desktop browser and brings the full
internet to mobile Pocket PCs. It offers Open URL
with auto-complete, Zoom, Download, Tabs,
Navigation and history, Bookmarks,
Landscape/Portrait Mode, Full screen/Fit to screen,
Pop-up handler, Pad-lock icon on secure sites, User
preferences and Context menu.
2.4 Opera Mini
Opera Mini is a full, Java-based Web browser that
allows users to access the full Web on mobile
phones that would normally be incapable of running
a Web browser. A remote server pre-processes the
Web pages before sending them to the phone. This
makes Opera Mini directed for phones with limited
resources, or low bandwidth connections. Opera
Mini is a fast and easy alternative to Opera's mobile
browser, allowing users to access the Web on mobile
phones that would normally be incapable of running
a Web browser. This includes the vast majority of
today's WAP-enabled phones.
Instead of requiring the phone to process Web
pages, it uses a remote server to pre-process the page
before sending it to the phone.
Opera Mini offers the same speed and usability
as the renowned Opera mobile browser, and uses
Opera's Small Screen Rendering technology to
provide access to the Web. It supports features such
as bookmarks, browsing history, and ability to split
large pages into smaller sections for faster browsing.
2.5 NetFront
NetFront provides a comprehensive feature-set that
includes support for the OMA Browsing 2.2, WML,
HTML 4.01, and cHTML standards. NetFront also
features technologies that make mobile Internet
browsing highly responsive and intuitive like Rapid-
Render, a incremental rendering technology that
accelerates the presentation of Web pages; and
Smart-Fit Rendering, a technology that intelligently
renders Web pages to fit the screen width of mobile
devices, eliminating the need for horizontal
scrolling. NetFront was the first browser to be
deployed for a commercial 3G mobile service (W-
CDMA), also provides integrated support for Adobe
PDF files via Adobe Reader LE, which is a first for
mobile browsers (Addison, 2005).
Netfront is a Web browser which converts tables
in a Web page into a vertical display, eliminating the
need to scroll horizontally. The user can zoom in
and out on Web pages from 25% to 100%, and user
can select or scroll anywhere on a page with your
stylus. The software can open up to five windows
and you can tab to any one of them.
NetFront supports a wider range of operating
systems than any competing browser including
solutions for Palm® OS, Symbian OS, Linux OS,
Microsoft® Windows® Mobile/PocketPC and
mobile handset environments like BREW®.
The authors have selected and analyzed important
sites with different kinds of construction and
implementation rules and graphic appearance. Some
important characteristics were considered like using
frames, JavaScript, background images, search
engines, Cascading Style Sheets, tables. Considering
this, we decided to analyze,, and These web sites are
consulted by millions users all days, and uses
different construction and presentation modes.
To calculate load times the considered web pages
were really requested from the original remote
servers. The authors used a Web Monitor 3.01
Application to register the loading process.
CNN is the worldwide news giant. It is not only
responsible for TV channels but also it has one of
the biggest and important news web-site on the
WWW. It is a fairly typical example of a rigid
nested table design. Inflexible, cluttered, and
certainly not designed to work with handheld
devices. A lot of the styling relies on background
images, but is not totally dependent on them. The
screenshots concentrate on one specific part of the
page, where the use of background images is most
It is based on framesets that it enforces very heavily.
It is not possible to view the site without framesets.
The layout uses 6 rendered frames (in 4 separate
framesets); one at the top for the logo and menus,
one on the left for the search field, one under it for
the "sync toc" function, one under that for the tree
structure, then a small frame on the right for the
words "Welcome to the MSDN Library", and
finally, a main frame under it for the content.
Note that this page serves garbage to Opera (and
possibly other browsers) if it identifies as itself, so
Opera has a user-agent override set on this site to
make the site think it is something else.
Amazon is currently one of the biggest online
retailers. What started to be the just an online
bookstore has grown is terms of diversity to a major
retailer. Its design is based on a frameset. There is a
top frame for the logo and a search engine box, a left
frame for the navigation, and a main right frame for
the content. The page does not use the normal
frameset approach. Instead of a “noframes” section,
it has a complete page, and uses a script to generate
the frameset only if the browser is capable of
running the scripts used by the navigation page.
Without frames, the browser is given an alternative
view of the navigation, leaving the site fully
accessible. As an additional bonus, the scripting
design allows the frameset to be bookmarked, so that
it will return to the correct pages within the
Google is a popular search engine, is a tool for
finding resources on the World Wide Web. Google
scans web pages to find instances of the keywords
user have entered in the search box. It is very simple
about graphic presentation, only have a CSS to
format colours, position and fonts. This web site
SMALL SCREEN RENDERING WEB-BROWSER COMPARISON - When Web Content is Too Large to Fit the Screen
recognizes the device is accessing and when small
screen portable device is redirects to the PDA format
in URL (
At this point we will present four web sites
appearance under the five tested web browsers.
Pocket Internet Explorer
Users would think that Pocket IE would be able to
render Microsoft's own site properly, especially the
parts about IE. But no. Pocket IE's frameset
approach is absolutely poor and strange on this page.
The clumsy frameset handling simply cannot cope.
There is no option that can make this page look good
in Pocket IE.
NetFront insists on using a full frameset, but at least
user can select and maximise different frames easily.
That does not stop it being annoying of course. The
content of some of the frames is completely
obscured, and difficult to access. To make matter
worse, the font chosen by NetFront has to be the
smallest. We have seen on a device, and is almost
impossible to read.
The frameset is rendered, and the pages are all too
small. Some of them can be resized, but not the most
important one of all - the actual information user
wants to read. The content is impossible to see.
Again, the frames are merged, one after the other.
The native Opera has a small problem with frame
ordering when running external programs, so taking
screenshots may cause the frames to change
sequence. This is a bug in the 8.5 engine used in this
release, and is fixed in later versions of the engine
(this problem does not occur in Opera Mini).
Opera Mini
The formatting is a little less ornate than in native
Opera, and the reduced quality on the images is a
little more obvious. The rendering is also a little
more compact, but the site is just as easy to use.
Pocket Internet Explorer
Even if background images are used, that does not
make it look nice. Something has gone very wrong
here. I waited for a long time for this page to load,
and after all that, it is hardly readable due to some
mishandling of backgrounds.
Probably the best looking rendering, NetFront
manages to retain more of the original style than the
other browsers, for once without producing a
horizontal scrollbar. But it took far too long to load.
Mobile devices have limited memory, processor
power, and bandwidth, and this page took too much
of all of them. Our device slowed down to a crawl,
despite a generous 40 MB of memory devoted to this
A thoroughly useless rendering. Minimo fails to
complete loading the page. The progress bar
continued to show the page as incomplete, no matter
how long we gave it. Minimo itself takes up too
many resources, and its inefficient approach to page
display clearly shows here. It takes a long time to get
this much of the page loaded, then it is unable to
complete because it requires too much memory.
One good point is that Minimo now hides its tab bar
by default. This makes it comparable to NetFront
and Opera, which also have the ability to have
multiple pages open at the same time (even Pocket
IE has an extension to open multiple pages), but do
not waste screen space when only one page is open.
However, Minimo is so resource hungry that the tabs
are useless anyway. We were unable to load two
pages at once - it always ran out of memory.
Opera's approach of not using background images is
obvious, but not bad. The page is still easily readable
and clear, and as a result, Opera can get away with
using a smaller font than the other browsers, making
it more efficient with its use of screen space. It has
the additional benefit of lower bandwidth and lower
cost. How important that is, is up to user speed and
tariff, but in terms of load times, the page would
load in about 30 seconds in Opera compared with
the few minutes it took to load in the other browsers.
Opera Mini
Opera Mini's rendering is very similar to native
Opera. The page loads very fast, noticeably faster
than native Opera. The lower cost is an obvious
benefit. The image quality is a little lower, but easily
within acceptable limits. On devices with lower
memory, the page would be broken into sections to
avoid loading it all at once.
Pocket Internet Explorer
Google web site is very simple about graphic
presentation, only have a CSS to format colours,
position and fonts. The web site recognizes that is
small screen device and redirects it to the
preformatted pages layout. This page was formatted
to presents a simple layout with logo, search box
engine and search button. It is very simple to use and
not represents problems in layout presentation when
presents search results.
Like Pocket Internet Explorer, Google web site
redirects to PDA formatted pages and present a very
simple layout. The aspect results are similar to the
other browsers.
Aspect layout is very simple and similar to others
web browsers.
Similar to the others this paper tested web browsers.
Opera Mini
Aspect layout similar to the others web browsers
with a little difference. In this web browser the font
format, font size, text box and search button are
affected by CSS effects.
Pocket Internet Explorer
Pocket IE has no DOM, DHTML, or RegExp
capabilities, leaving the scripting engine capable of
doing virtually nothing useful. The Windows Mobile
5 release has some RegExp capabilities, and
supposedly it has DHTML too, but it fails on even
the simplest tasks, since it does not support any of
CSS 2.
The layout appears similar to the desktop web
browser, without the proportionality font and images
dimensions. So the rendered page is much larger
than the web browser screen and users need to scroll
both horizontally and vertically to view it.
NetFront claims to support the required scripting, so
the page generates the frameset. However,
NetFront's scripting support is actually very poor, so
it fails to run the navigation script. Now stuck inside
a frameset, the page on the left side is not created
properly, and is left with a malfunctioning frameset.
By using only the left frame, it is possible to use the
site, but it is not very convenient or comfortable, as
the useless frameset keeps re-appearing when user
click links. To make matters worse, NetFront picks
very small fonts for parts of the page, making them
impossible to read. Other parts of the page use fonts
that are too big, and words are broken into
fragments, with one letter on each line. The site is
almost impossible to use.
Minimo to avoid the need for horizontal scrolling
provides a single-column viewing mode that
reformats the page by concatenating all its columns,
thus displaying it as a single. The appearance looks
good, but the first page loading was very slow,
something like 45 seconds.
Opera gracefully deals with the frameset, merging it
into what looks like a single page, with the top frame
first, then the left frame underneath it, and the right
frame underneath that. The entire site works very
well this way, even so the layout graphics aspect is
little bit more poor.
Opera Mini
The rendering is very similar to native Opera, and
the site performs without any major problems. The
frameset is removed when clicking links, meaning
that user have to go back to see it again. This can be
a little annoying, but on the low resource phones that
Opera Mini is designed for, having a smaller page
can be welcome. The history performs fast enough,
so going back is not too uncomfortable.
Like Opera, this web browser works very well
rendering this web site, but loose some of original
layout structure.
It is clear that current available web-content is not
adapted for today’s new web navigation trends. This
is specially significant when we consider that more
and more users are starting to use different devices
(such as mobile phones and personal data assistants)
to navigate the web. To enable these devices to
navigate through the available web content some
adaptation techniques need to be applied to the
content to be able to render it on such small devices.
However, most of the adopted techniques are not so
effective. The layout conversion of the Single-
Column interface may affect user’s ability to
recognize some page elements, such as horizontal
tabs or horizontal menus, as well as overall page
structures. Well, it does not take too much effort to
realise that only two browsers successfully coped
with all the pages, and they share a common name.
SMALL SCREEN RENDERING WEB-BROWSER COMPARISON - When Web Content is Too Large to Fit the Screen
Sure there will be some that defeat Opera, because
they only rely on desktop screen size to work (such
that they will not let you continue unless user screen
is a certain size), or pages that deliberately sniff and
block it, or maybe ones that rely too heavily on use
of plug-ins. But in general, Opera seems to cope
with difficult pages far better than the other device
browsers. Additionally it's impressive capabilities,
such as its ability to use XMLHttpRequest (AJAX)
applications, and its very good support for standards
such as DOM, CSS (even particularly useful things
for devices, like media queries, and the obviously
important handheld media), and SVG. Its low
resource usage, and small footprint are also very
important benefits. Pocket IE have the trend to
present the page layout similar to the desktop web
browser, so in a PDA screen only appear a little
piece of the total page. Web pages are typically
designed with the desktop screen in mind, and
therefore often use multi-column layouts and
preformatted page widths. Such pages can be hard to
read on small screens. If rendered as is, the resulting
page is typically much larger than the web browser
screen and users need to scroll both horizontally and
vertically to view it.
The work that has been presented here has
revealed some of the main characteristics of the
available mobile web-browsers. The following steps
of our work will consist in the design and
implementation of a technology that will take
advantage of some of the characteristics identified in
each of tested web browsers. The objective is to
develop a technology that will result in a fast and
secure way of rendering web-content in a small
screen device, avoiding the need for horizontal and
vertical scrolling. One of the objectives of the
technology that will be developed will be the
capability to render web pages as similar as possible
to desktop web browsers to avoid users difficulty to
recognize page elements (Lam, 2005), such as
horizontal tabs or horizontal menus, as well as
overall page structures.
A standard way of processing web pages for
viewing on small screen devices is thought a proxy
server that transforms pages on-the-fly (e.g.
Thunderhawk browser). A proxy server is a program
that receives web page requests (here from mobile
devices), loads the respective pages, converts them,
and serves them to the devices that requested them.
Running the proxy on a powerful machine, such as a
PC or Server, eliminates the need for processing on
computationally weak mobile devices. Also, this
approach makes it easier to serve different
platforms. This is the approach that will be used to
develop a server-side web content adaptation
mechanism that will automatically adapt the content
to be sent to the device and browser responsible for
browsing the content.
The work that is described in this paper is being
performed in the context of the e-Voto project, a
Portuguese project dealing with the complexity of
the electronic voting systems, in particular to the
dissemination of electoral results over the WWW.
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