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8 great tools for building mobile-friendly websites

As we continue through the current boom in mobile technology, it has become imperative for websites to be mobile-friendly. People are increasingly turning to the devices in their pockets to do quick searches for information, read the latest news headlines and look up companies or organisations they may have come across through the day which have sparked their interest.

Having a good-looking, mobile-optimised site which is easy to navigate and includes all the most important information can put you way ahead of the pack.

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These days with the latest tech developments in mobile operating systems and browsers, it is much easier to build a site which looks great on mobiles. If you don’t have the time or HTML and CSS know-how, there are a lot of tools out there that can do all the hard work for you.

While some phones, like the iPhone or those running on Android, have browsers that can display full web pages, creating a mobile version of your website formatted for smaller screens has many benefits, such as faster load times, and ensures your content can be viewed on a wider range of devices, while offering a more pleasant mobile browsing experience.

It’s usually a good idea to gather some detailed user information about your website first, through Google Analytics or a similar tool, so that you have some idea of what devices people are using to browse the site, and what their screen resolutions are like.

Here is a list of useful services, design tools, plugins and other resources to help you go mobile:

1. MoFuse

MoFuse offers a simple way for users to easily create mobile versions of their websites. The service has been in existence for some time, offering tools to promote your content, build and measure your audience, and even make money. It is currently being used by over 23 000 blogs for their mobile versions, most notably tech blog Mashable.

The company offers MoFuse for Blogs, which is free and suited to smaller websites and blogs. The service enables you to quickly mobilise your website using your RSS feed to generate the new site whenever it is accessed by visiting m.yourdomain.com.

It also offers a premium version for larger websites and businesses which offers more control and has many customisable options on different price plans if you need to add in more pages and have specific design needs.

2. Mippin Mobilizer

Mippin also enables you to create a mobile version of your site quickly and for free, using your website’s RSS feed. The service gives you control over your branding and logo, as well as the ability to monetize your mobile site through advertising. The options are a bit limited in terms of design and adding in links to other parts of your site, but the mobile site that Mippin creates should be viewable on almost any WAP-compatible mobile phone.

3. mobiSiteGalore

mobiSiteGalore provides a mobile website builder that allows you to easily build, publish and share a complete mobile website that will work well on any mobile phone, though it is not free. The design templates allow you to completely customize the colours, fonts and layout on the page so that you can create a mobile site that is more unique to your branding. You can also take advantage of the .mobi TLD, and mobiSiteGalore lets you create a mobile site from a computer or from your phone.

4. Wirenode

Wirenode currently hosts nearly 50 000 mobile webpages, including popular brands such as Reebok, Ford, Nokia and Vodafone. It can take about 5 minutes to get a mobile version of your site up and running with Wirenode, and has several features like mobile widgets (e.g. for Twitter), RSS mobilization, and mobile polls and forms. The service also tries to render the best output format by detecting which mobile phones are accessing the platform. Some services are free and others are available for a small fee.

5. WPtouch

Formatting your website for WAP is a good start, but it’s also a good idea to think about creating a separate stylesheet for users browsing on mobile devices such as the iPhone, iPod Touch, Android, or a touch-based BlackBerry, in order to offer visitors a better user experience. WPtouch is a great plugin available for WordPress users that automatically makes your site easy-to-read and access from an iPhone or Android device.

The plugin is popular and robust, and offers great backend features like the ability to set an iPhone home screen icon, the ability to work with other WordPress plugins, support for AJAX, customised headers, and others. WPtouch loads very quickly and shows content beautifully, without interfering with your regular site theme. Users can also choose to turn off the mobile site and access the full version of a website at any time by using the mobile on/off switch at the bottom of each page, which is a useful addition as many users prefer the “full web” experience.

6. WPtap

WPtap is another WordPress plugin that offers some alternative themes for users who want a more customised look and feel to add to their sites. WPtap is similar to WPtouch, but there is more emphasis on offering pre-built mobile design styles. The plugin comes complete with all the standard WordPress blog features: search, login, categories, tags, archives, photos etc, and also offers customization features through a user-friendly WordPress admin panel.

7. WordPress Mobile Pack

The WordPress Mobile Pack is a complete toolkit from the dotMobi team. It’s a whole suite of tools for mobile web optimisation on WordPress sites or blogs. It includes an attractive base mobile theme, a mobile switcher to select themes based on the type of user that is visiting the site, a selection of mobile themes, extra widgets, a mobile administration panel, and the option for visitors to switch between the full and mobile versions of a website.

8. Mobify

Mobify makes it simple for designers or users who know HTML and CSS to easily modify and optimize a website for mobile access. The service gives you full control over the layout of your mobile site with CSS, and it supports over 5 000 mobile devices. It also gives you tools with which you can manage mobile advertising and analytics.

The service is free, although paid monthly plans with more features are available, and it works well with systems like WordPress and Drupal, or other systems that have predictable URL patterns and well-formed HTML. Mobify has a visual editor that allows the user to see what their content looks like on different device types and you can then modify the CSS and see the changes in real-time. Their services have been used by BoingBoing, A List Apart and Wired amongst others.

Have we missed any useful tools that you like or have you had any notably good/bad experiences with those we’ve listed? Let us know in the comments section below.

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