The .mobi domain was introduced in 2005 and was made available to the public in September 2006. The domain extension was intentionally created for mobile phone users who browse the internet and has strict guidelines on how a site is designed.
More specifically, .mobi sites must :
- Be optimised for viewing on a mobile phone
- Must not use a lot of bandwidth
- Use XHTML-MP (XHTML Mobile Profile)
- Not use frames
- Not require www before the domain ie. example.mobi should work and the user should not have to enter www.example.mobi. This is to reduce the time the user takes to enter a domain and speed up browsing.
The domain initially had tremendous support from all the major mobile phone operators and internet giants such as Google and Microsoft although unfortunately, many companies, including some mobile operators, have been slow to show the same support. However, there are millions of people who use .mobi sites such as FoxNews.mobi every day.
Most phones which have been released in the last year or so have larger screens for browsing the web and some even have wifi so you might be asking if the .mobi domain is necessary and if it perhaps came a little too late. However, you need to remember that nearly all mobiles still require the user to scroll both horizontally and vertically. More importantly, data usage is still extremely expensive with many operators charging by megabyte instead of gigabyte therefore reducing the bandwidth for mobile phone users is essential.
This is why creating a mobile version of your blog is a good idea and the .mobi domain is the perfect place to put it.
Checking your blog from a mobile phone users point of view
The more I looked into this domain the more I wanted to create a mobile version of BloggingTips therefore I registered bloggingtips.mobi. With the domain secured the next step was to find out the best way to develop a .mobi website however before I did that I wanted to check what BloggingTips was currently like for mobile phone users. Therefore I used the mobile visitor test tool at Mobi Site Galore. The tool lets you see the bandwidth your site uses and the average cost for viewing a page on your site.
Here are the results :
As you can see, the results were not good. Whilst BloggingTips might be pleasant on the eye to broadband users, the number of images on the page is high which means there is a lot of downloading for the user. Wi-fi users will be fine however those on the standard GPRS will have to wait 435 seconds for the page to download. Even 3G users will have to wait 100 seconds for the home page to load (this figure was much higher than I suspected).
The cost of downloading the page is also surprising. A person in Europe would have to pay €5.36 whereas users in Latin America would have to pay a whopping €30.38 to view the page. I think that in reality these costs are much lower however I’m sure they are still very very expensive. It effectively means users cannot view your website with their mobile phone as it is too expensive.
The results told me one thing for sure : BloggingTips needs a mobile version of the site!
Creating a .mobi site for your blog
There are many great websites on the net which show you how to develop a .mobi website however I was looking for a tool or service which would create a .mobi site for me using my RSS feed. I didn’t find such a site however I did find an alternative which was quicker and easier to set up. The alternative is a WordPress plugin though I am not sure if a similar hack exists for other blogger platforms such as Blogger or Typepad (please let me know if you find one similar).
Alex King’s WordPress Mobile Edition is a fantastic plugin which strips away all your graphics and shows your blogs pages and recent posts to mobile phone users. It is configured so that mobile phone browsers are automatically detected so all you have to do is activate the plugin.
The plugin created a mobile version of Blogging Tips at http://www.bloggingtips.com/index.php?ak_action=force_mobile. This version of BloggingTips has no graphics* so mobile users should find it easier to download (* of course, images within blog posts will still show). One of my favourite features of this plugin is that when the ‘Mobile Edition’ link is clicked it converts the current page to the mobile friendly version ie. it doesn’t redirect you to your mobile friendly home page.
Here’s a preview of the mobile version this plugin generates. As you can see, it’s very basic, but that’s exactly what you want with a mobile friendly site.
All I had to do after installation was setup a URL redirect for bloggingtips.mobi to this more mobile suitable URL.
Let’s see what bandwidth costs are like for mobile users using this mobile version of Blogging Tips :
The mobile version has improved our mobile rating to 3 which according to Mobi Site Galore, is fair. Fair seems pretty harsh to me when you look at the figures. The size of the page has went from around 1800kb to 5.41kb, the speed of the page has went from over 400 seconds to just over 3 seconds on a GPRS connection and the maximum cost has went from €30.38 to €0.09.
I don’t believe that there is any good way to reduce the fair rating since the majority of the download is text. It would be good to disable images in the mobile version and put a link asking the user if they want to download the image as this would reduce bandwidth costs in blog posts with a lot of pictures. However, the mobile version is still a massive improvement for the mobile user. Infact, it is a massive improvement for any reader where bandwidth is a concern (ie. those who may be using a dial up line to connect to the web).
If you have a WordPress blog I strongly encourage you to download the WordPress Mobile Edition plugin from Alex King. It’s free and takes 2 minutes to download and setup so you really have no excuse!
Why bother registering a .mobi domain for your blog?
I am sure many of you are wondering why you need to register a .mobi domain name in the first place. Infact, many domainers are questioning whether the domain is dead already due to the lack of support from major corporations.
The short and blunt answer is you don’t to register a .mobi for your blog. The Mobile Edition plugin will automatically detect mobile browsers and direct your readers to the mobile friendly version of your blog.
However, there are a few good reasons for securing the .mobi domain for your blog.
- Browser Detection – Alex King’s plugin claims to detect every mobile browser however with new phones and new mobile phone software coming out every year there is no 100% guarantee that the plugin will detect that a user is browsing using a mobile phone.
- Branding – It is much better to direct all mobile readers to site.mobi than site.com/index.php?ak_action=force_mobile.
- Securing your identity – There is nothing to stop a rival registering the .mobi version of your domain and redirecting it to their website.
With sites like GoDaddy charging less than $10 for a .mobi domain, it isn’t a huge expense to get the .mobi domain name for your blog. New bloggers migh find it hard to justify this expense however those with blogs which have a few thousand subscribers should strongly consider securing their .mobi identity for such a small cost.
Good luck 🙂
* Don’t forget to check out BloggingTips.mobi on your mobile! 🙂