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Get to the Mobile Web quickly with Mippin

There is no doubt that the mobile is starting to make more of an impact on the Internet. Not long ago many people thought a mobile was really just for making calls and texting. It is difficult to miss the amount of publicity that the Apple iPhone and Google Android projects have generated recently. Many mobile phones come with a browser built in that is capable of rendering regular web pages and the price of Internet access from a mobile is dropping, and is often it is bundled with contracts. Ten years ago Nokia set this process in motion by releasing the Nokia 7110, the first mobile phone to have Internet access, it couldn't render regular web pages, only ones specifically written for mobiles but brought to the public the idea of Internet access in your pocket, available quickly wherever and whenever you need it. It has been a slow process for the mobile web, but it looks set to grow, and one social networking site in Japan has found that mobile traffic has overtaken non-mobile web traffic. A problem remains though, while mobiles are now capable of rendering regular HTML web pages, they still have very small screens meaning that web sites have to be redesigned to look their best. This, depending on how far you want to go, can be a time consuming process (and one I'm determined to do properly later this year!), fortunately there is a service available that promises not only to re-render your web content in a mobile friendly way, but also to render it in different ways for different devices, and to do all of this in the time it takes to have a coffee.

The Mippin site for my blog, rendered on the Google Android emulatorThe name of this service is Mippin and it works by taking the RSS feeds from your site and turning them into a mobile site.You will need to turn on full text feeds for this to work, so it might not be suitable if you are concerned about driving people to your site rather than just making the content available. Making the RSS feed from your Drupal site suitable is very easy, just go to Administer -> Content -> RSS Publishing and set the "Display of XML feed items" to "Full text". Creating a mobile site in Mippin is a matter of following a wizard which will take you through several web pages enabling you to set up your site. Part of the Mippin service is the ability to host advertising on your mobile site, which can generate revenue for you, however you don't have to do this. I found the set up very easy, and didn't need any particular technical skills. It was great to see that you can personalise the look of the site to fit in with your own site, I chose to match the colour scheme to my main site and to upload a small logo to give the site a bit of individuality. It is worth noting though that the content only flows one way, it is very similar to someone subscribing to your RSS feed in a reader, they can't interact with your site. This means you mobile users won't be able to post comments, which is a bit of a shame.

The site generated by Mippin is clean and attractive. It works very well with the devices I tried with it (a Nokia mobile phone, an iTouch and Google Android emulator). On the Nokia, which has quite a small screen, the content was still readable with pagination being automatically inserted so that not too much text was loaded on a page at once. On the iTouch and Android emulator, the rendering was done to take advantage of the touchscreen features, users can just touch a story section to read the content. The graphics were all resized too, although I did notice the strange feature that all of the images in a story are shown at the top of the page. Mippin has a couple of extra nice features though, your site gets listed (somewhere) on their portal and they give you a rather good page to link to that shows your Mippin site, gives the address, and also shows the QR and Datamatrix codes for your site. You can see the page for this site at http://www.mippin.com/web/getMippin.jsp?id=48641&ref=mippit.

This year I'm intending to upgrade the Drupal installation that powers this website to support more platforms including mobile phones. Hopefullly this means that commenting will be possible on these platforms too, while having the best mobile experience. For now Mippin provides a very good option to render content for the mobile web, the results are pleasing and would be maybe enough for many websites. For websites wanting more functionality Mippin is still a good stop-gap measure allowing people to enjoy the content of your web site while out and about, rather than having to navigate themselves round a full size website on a tiny screen. When you are ready you can always bring out your own mobile version of your site with added features.

Comments

Hi Liam, why did you go for Mippin rather than, say, Mowser? I'm using Mowser for my site which effectively mobilises the entire site rather than just the RSS feed. So any static content, search, archive lists etc are also mobilised. Did you consider this before opting for Mippin? Just curious!

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