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Planning Mobile Site
new domain name or?
old_expat




msg:4246566
 4:05 am on Dec 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

I am in the planning stage of building/adapting a mobile website from a current travel information site. My research around the web has had me going in a specific direction until I read the thread about Matt Cutts tweet.

In that thread, Tedster [webmasterworld.com ] referenced another discussion that contained a comment from a Google's John Mu


"Yes, with "mobile" we mean the traditional mobile phone browsers, not smart-phones (which we generally treat the same as desktop browsers given their advanced capabilities)."

I had planned on building the site as a directory or sub-domain, but now I am wondering if it should be a completely separate domain name .. and if I should consider a .mobi. But if Google doesn't consider sites aimed at smart phones to be "mobile", which direction should I go?

I happen to have an oldish .com site that was sort of experimental that the domain is about to expire. Perhaps using that domain is a better idea?

 

mack




msg:4246568
 5:14 am on Dec 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

My opinion or .mobi is not great. On a handheld device the keyboard makes typing a lot more difficult. Make the domain as short as possible. .mobi in its self is longer than it needs to be.

if I had to choose between

www.example.mobi
or
m.example.com

I would choose the latter. Because this is a sub domain it retains your existing name/branding etc but will be viewed as a site in its own right.

I think the key here is how you present the mobile site to your users. With modern smart phones they can handle full web pages with no problems. Older phones may struggle.

One method that is widely used is to sniff out mobile browsers and redirect them to your mobile site. If you do this I recommend you provide a link to allow the user to choose to return to the main site.

Mack.

old_expat




msg:4246576
 6:17 am on Dec 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

Hi mack,

I've been doing lots of reading and have found a nice free PHP script that sniffs phones. I guess I also need to learn XHTML. I know how to code in HTML well enough for simple sites.

On one forum, a couple of folks addressed problems with using m.example.com and suggested example.com/mobile. Something at the back of my brain is whispering "caution" .. not sure why.

I guess that duplicate content issues are bothering me.

One of my concerns, not having a smartphone myself, is how difficult it might be to design site navigation .. no mouse .. how big are the buttons? I don't think the emulators can help in this respect.

Finding a good in-depth discussion list for smartphone design has so far eluded me. Suggestions appreciated.

maximillianos




msg:4246669
 2:57 pm on Dec 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

I went through this same debate/dilemma last summer. I chose to go with a sub-domain (example.com/mobile). My reasoning was that I felt mobile content was simply a display variation of my main content, just like a print version of my pages. That said, I felt it should not be on another domain (or subdomain). It belongs on the main domain (in my opinion). Sub-domains are for content that is distantly related to your main domain. Mobile content is the same content, so I didn't consider it "distant" enough. =)

So after I decided on that, I did some reading up on duplicate content. I ended up going with the canonical tags on my mobile pages to designate my main pages as the "real page" and the mobile version is just that, a display variation of the main page. I had read somewhere on Google help pages that they recommended using canonical tags for print pages, mobile pages, etc. That was enough for me to go in this direction. I've read of other webmasters who skipped this step (canonical tags) and it worked just fine as well. I am doing a test right now with the canonical tags removed in an attempt to remedy a problem I'm having. My mobile pages don't seem to show up in mobile searches (my desktop pages do), and I think it might be related to my canonical tags. We'll see if removing the tags fixes that problem.

For formatting, I used XHTML. That alone is also a sign to G that your page is a mobile page. I also submitted a mobile sitemap to G.

After all this, I setup a redirect based on user-agent in my apache configuration for known mobile agents.

My site is 10 years old and my rankings didn't seem to have been negatively affected by this design. I launched in July (about 6 months ago). Granted there have been lots of roller coaster changes G made to SERPS and their ranking algorithm over the last 6 months, but my mobile traffic seems to be steadily growing, and now I'm focused on trying to better monetize my mobile traffic. Which is another beast in its own. =)

maximillianos




msg:4246680
 3:31 pm on Dec 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

After doing some further research I found this article:

[brysonmeunier.com...]

It seems to agree with my tests above that the canonical tags are not necessary.

I tested this theory by doing a search for "wikipedia mobile" and browsed their mobile site. Viewing their source you will see they don't use canonical either.

I typically think of Wikipedia as the standard when it comes to stuff like this. =)

old_expat




msg:4246924
 3:05 am on Dec 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm not sure I want to put all my content on my mobile site. First, I have over 600 pages. Just the navigation on such a small screen would seem problematic. Even if I pare down to say .. 200 pages, I believe navigation is a challenge. I looked at a couple of large mobile sites and very honestly, I wouldn't even think about using them on a 300-360 px screen .. too much scrolling!

I suppose my narrative content could work okay if presented in a single column, but certain tabular data might not. Also, I have a number of travel maps and just can't see them being all that helpful on a small screen.

So my current thinking is to rewrite about 100 core information pages and recode using XHTML. Then try to work out a navigation scheme that won't frustrate users.

maximillianos




msg:4246934
 4:43 am on Dec 29, 2010 (gmt 0)

It is a challenge reformatting for mobile devices. We took our most popular pages/sections and converted them. Kind of the 80-20 rule. We have over 250,000 pages. I'd say we converted about 150,000 pages to mobile. But we have a custom CMS which makes mass changes a bit easier. :-)

My advice: make sure you only redirect to mobile pages that map. Don't send folks to a page that isn't what they were expecting, or default send folks to your mobile homepage if they are expecting a detail page. It is not good for the user experience.

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