I recently bought a new cell phone, more of a gadget phone actually. A Nokia 6275i. While it does not have the feature list of an iPhone it does have a built in 2 megapixel camera, an MP3 player and most importantly I can use it to surf the web! I suppose I border on having an Internet addiction, but when I am sitting and waiting it is nice to be able to check my email or do a little reading of my favourite blogs. I am sure I won’t use it very often to surf the web but it has made me curious about how to use the mobile web and specifically how blogs can be mobile web friendly. The reality is most blogs are not mobile web friendly. I tried out Epiblogger, Problogger and Shoemoney on the phone and while the content displays I eventually get an out of memory error. Overall the blogs are just not meant to be viewed on such a small screen.
Why should you care how mobile web users view your blog? Well if statistics like “Researchers at IDC say that 1.3 billion people will connect to the Internet via mobile phones by 2008” from the dotMobi mobile phone emulator page can be believed that is a fairly significant number of people that are going to be using their cell phones to browse the web and that number will only go up. If you don’t like statistics just look at the money Google is pouring into the mobile web market with Google Android phones due out this year. If bloggers want to stay at the cutting edge and make their content available to people we need to be visionaries to allow our readers to be able to access that content in whatever way they prefer, whether it is through a web browser, RSS reader or mobile phone. Fortunately you don’t need to be a brilliant programmer anymore to make your content accessible to mobile web users.With a little Google search I was able to dig up the following ways for you to make your blog accessible on the mobile web.
Thanks to Google Reader you can use this ten second technique to serve your latest blog posts to your readers in a nice friendly format. This is just a simple Google Reader hack that allows your RSS feed to be formated to bemobile friendly. Simply add your feed address to this url:
So Epiblogger’s mobile web address would be http://www.google.com/reader/m/view/feed/ http://feeds.feedburner.com/epiblogger
It is a simple hack and will present the content to mobile web users easily. The downside is Google could change or stop this from working at anytime. Only your latest posts are presented to people, which might be all you need anyways. You also have no ability to brand the look and feel of the content. Of course if people simply subscribed to your blog they would be able to get this content delivered to them like this already.
Google Conversion Utility/Google Search
Google offers another tool to convert a website into a mobile web friendly version. Simply go to the Google Conversion Form, enter your URL and the content will be reformatted to work well on mobile screens. Anyone can do this on their mobile phone, so if you are browsing the web on your mobile phone and you need a website reformatted you can quickly do it yourself. From what I can tell Google will also reformat content for mobile phones when you search through Google using your mobile phone. If you are using Google search on your mobile phone you are already getting similar results to what the Google Conversion Utility is will give you.
When I first saw the mobiSiteGalore website I thought it was really busy, but once I signed up and started working with it I discovered that this mobile web builder offered a lot of options. They offer “goodies” that you can add to your mobile site including monetization options with Google Adsense, Admob and PayPal. You can add a search box, video clips, audio clips, and several other kinds of interesting goodies. I was concerned at first that they did not offer the ability to add an RSS feed, but after scrolling to the bottom of the “Goodies” I found the option to add an RSS feed.
mobiSiteGalore offered the most options for publishing your mobile website. Most of the other mobile website builders offer to just publish your site as a subdomain on their site. mobiSiteGalore offers you three publishing options. You can publish to their subdomain and use their free hosting, use your own domain and their temporary hosting until you get your own web hosting or you can publish to your own hosting account using FTP. Another nice feature I did not see on any other mobile website builder is the option to download the files to your own computer. You could then publish them to your own server at a later date.
While MoFuse offers code to add to your WordPress blog to redirect mobile users to the mobile version, mobiSiteGalore offers to redirect people using PC’s that browse your mobile site to redirect them to your full website. A great option to make sure people browsing on their computers see your full website instead of your mobile version.
Their website tag line says you can build your own mobile web in 5 minutes. They are not lying. I entered the Epiblogger RSS feed url and the mobile website was done. I did some tweaking, added a logo and a little text and I was done. Overall I spent maybe 15 minutes. This was one of the easier mobile web builders I tried. It has a Easy to create a mobile site with text, images and rss feeds. Offers more than just formating the RSS feed into a mobile site. You can create pages, add extra widgets. Overall the site makes it quick and easy to create your own mobile website including your blogs RSS feed.
MoFuse is one of the mobile website builders I have seen before. It is easy to create a mobile website with your blogs RSS feed. They also offer the option of adding additional pages. The one huge benefit that I could see MoFuse has over some of the other free mobile website builders is the code they offer to redirect mobile web users automatically to your mobile website. It is a snippet of PHP code that you can add to the top of your WordPress header file. MoFuse also offers you the ability to monetize your mobile website with either Google Adsense or Admob, but it is a 50/50 revenue split with MoFuse. MoFuse offers a professional version of their service for $3.00/month. That gives you the ability to point your own domain at your mobile website along with some other features including removing the “No Powered by MoFuse” at the bottom of the pages.
Winksite not only allows you to create mobile websites, it seems to be more of a social network site. You create a profile and your mobile websites are subsites of your profile. They offer many options to add to your mobile website, including some that I did not see available on other mobile website builders like the option to create a forum. They even offer the ability to create your own mobile blog with the ability to add enties from their website. You also have the opportunity to monetize your mobile website again with Google Adsense and Admob. The combination of social network and mobile websites make Winksite an interesting combination. It could be a great way to build a community of mobile users around your blog.
WordPress Mobile Edition 1.7
For WordPress bloggers you can check out this plugin by Alex King. It was posted way back on 2005 and I have not tried it but it looks like the plugin will create a mobile friendly version of your blog. I have no idea if the plugin works well with WordPress 2.3 and up or not, and I am leary to try it here are Epiblogger. If I get a chance I might try it out on a test blog at some point in the future. If you have used it and know how well it works please leave a comment I would like to know your experience with it.
Overall many of the features that the mobile website builders offer are similar. There are some other mobile website builders available that I did not talk about, like Zinadoo, because I could not find a way to add entries from an RSS feed into the website. It seemed to me that creating a static mobile website is rather pointless, much like building static websites. The benefit of using the RSS feed from your blog to update your mobile website will help attract regular readers and allow your current readers a new and convenient way to read your blog when they are waiting at the doctors office, or commuting to and from work.
I dislike the idea of using Google hacks to display your content to mobile users. Google could switch off or change the behavior at any time and then you will have to look for another way of providing the mobile version. Unfortunately using the free mobile website builders creates another problem of counting on their free hosting service. The service could be discontinued or shutdown without warning. The WordPress plugin would be nice because it is based on your current WordPress install, but as I mentioned, it is unknown if the plugin works with current versions of WordPress and if it will continue to be updated for future versions of WordPress. For me the overall winner of the mobile website builders is mobiSiteGalore. In my opinion they offer the most options for building your mobile website along with the best publishing options. The ability to download the code for your mobile site allows you to upload it and publish on any domain and hosting you already own.
Mobile screenshots taken on the dotMobi mobile phone emulator