Building for mobile web involves using standard web technologies to create mobile websites or ‘mobile apps’ which is another term for an interactive website. These websites will run within the browser on mobile devices, so consumers will find them by browsing or searching the web. Mobile websites are rarely listed in the official application storefront. For historical reasons, there are several different ‘mobile web’ versions to be aware of. The oldest version of the mobile web only displays simplified websites that run on old-fashioned feature phones.
Another version of the mobile web are adapted versions of regular websites that have been modified to look good on mobile devices with big buttons and minimal content on each page. Or, if the website hasn’t been adapted to the small screen, most modern smartphone browsers will allow you to pan and zoom around to view the website content of a full website that was designed for viewing on a PC.
And finally, there are new web standards such as HTML5 that probably represent the future of the Internet. Currently these standards have been adopted only on the newest smartphones and PC browsers and it’s not yet a consistent platform for developing. Someday soon we expect (fingers crossed) that these standards will be universally adopted by both mobile and PC browsers. Once adopted, commercial and open sets toolsets will no doubt be built that allow developers to build an app or website that will run on any device. While there will always be future technologies that will require customization (think virtual reality, for example), there will come a day when basic web content and services will work consistently across devices as it does today on the Internet.
If you are porting an existing website, ensuring support for older mobile browsers may be important. If you are building a new website, you can probably get away with only focusing on new HTML5 smartphone browsers. The good news is that there are many mobile technology platforms that can take care of this for you.