Innovation

Get mobi

Written by Jim McElgunn

The number of people who can connect to the Web with a mobile device is exploding. An Ipsos-Reid survey last fall reported that 40% of Canadians expected to be wireless Internet users this year, more than double the 18% in 2005. There are now 2.5 billion cellphones in use worldwide, up half a billion just in the past year, and most of the new phones are Web-enabled. Yet most websites — probably including your company’s — are a nightmare to navigate on a cellphone or a PDA’s tiny screen.

A new domain name called .mobi aims to bridge this gap. It will offer the honey needed to attract the growing swarms of people using Web-enabled mobile devices: simplicity.

Users want a radically stripped-down site that lets them do one or two things fast. That doesn’t mean gutting the rich array of content on your .com or .ca site. Instead, consider adding a companion site with a .mobi domain extension that guarantees mobile users a friendly welcome.

DotMobi, a consortium of Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Ericsson and other Internet and mobile heavy hitters, is now launching the domain. The consortium checks .mobi sites quarterly to ensure they’re using mobile-compatible XHTML markup language and automatically identifying the type of device used, then tailoring the file size and screen resolution to display well on, say, a BlackBerry.

You don’t need a .mobi URL to be mobile-friendly. But an address such as xyzcompany.mobi offers that assurance, and is easy for people on the go to remember. (And they can omit the “www.”) Even if you aren’t ready to start a .mobi site, registering your name will protect it from cybersquatters. A .mobi site makes sense if you can offer mobile users quick information, such as a store locator or a brief list of sale items. It’s also good for quick interactions, such as a simplified page for clients to track shipments.

Cybele Negris, COO of Vancouver-based Webnames.ca, an accredited registrar for .mobi, concedes that there aren’t many good mobile-compatible sites yet. “But as soon as more big companies start creating great .mobi sites,” she says, “lots of smaller companies will follow suit.” Negris says mobile-friendly sites could take off overnight, as blogs did. In a world buzzing with billions of mobile devices, it looks like a question of when, not if.

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com