Thursday, May 14, 2009

Using the cell phone to promote your music, part 2

The future of "infotainment" or "communi-tainment" belongs to the cell phone or universal mobile device. Earlier, I talked of the benefits of gathering cell phone numbers from fans and sending the occasional text message promoting your live shows and recordings. Another are of mobile marketing involves the wireless application protocol. Mobile handsets rely on the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) to create web sites specifically formatted for mobile devices. The domain system used for wireless devices is the .mobi (top level) domain extension on the end of the URL address.

Just as with an Internet web site, design for a mobi site must be preceded with an understanding of goals for the site. What are you trying to accomplish and provide with a mobile web site? The goals may not be the same as for the computer-based site. An Internet site might focus on more detail, more long-term information, more entertainment, and creating branding and customer awareness. A mobile site will most likely be used by fans on the go who need quick access to information that they can use immediately. This may include information on live shows, such as directions to venues and start times. A tour schedule may be important if groups of fans are together and want to plan on attending an event at a future date; A quick glance at your tour schedule may be what they are looking for. Contests and coupons may be important for fans as well as access to music to download and listen to. Pull messages that appear on billboards, bus boards or in newspapers may create an immediate impulse among viewers to respond to the message via their cell phone, such as signing up to win something or downloading new content. With these goals in mind, a separate web site must be developed that allows the mobile fan to quickly access what they are looking for without scrolling through a lot of pages and screens. And the site must be updated often to reflect the changing needs of its visitors.

General WAP formatting rules
Creating mobile web sites may be as simple as stripping out all CSS formatting to reveal a text-only site similar to how a search engine spider renders a site, although much of the content must also be reduced for easier browsing. Or better yet, professional “mobi” developers can create a site that dynamically produces formatting from a variety of options depending upon the type of device accessing the site. In other words, the formatting of the site can vary, and for each visitor, the presentation is customized after the server detects what type of handset they are currently using.

Some basic rules to consider:
- Be realistic about what will fit on the small screen of a mobile device. Paring down your information for the screen size is first and foremost.
- Eliminate all information that is not important to the mobile user. Less is more on a mobile site. Visitors are usually looking for specific information or completing a specific task.
- Avoid vertical scrolling; web users don’t like it and it’s even less popular with mobile users.
- Reduce the number of clicks: don’t go deep in page numbers, it’s slow going for the mobile user.
- Keep it clean: use readable text on a readable background.
- Test your design on a variety of handheld devices to see if it holds up on all of them.
- Use abbreviations and succinct wording wherever possible
- Access keys are helpful in speeding up navigation. (Access keys are those just below the screen on the left and right that can take on a variety of functions, usually with the name of that function on the bottom of the screen just above the key.)

Mobile site design programs
Mobile web sites are still in the infancy stage of development, with new design ideas entering the marketplace almost every week. As of early 2008, the most common design elements include a small logo and company or site name at the top of the screen, followed by a short menu of options.

There are several professional web developers, such as TrioVisions, creating mobi web sites for major corporations and top-selling musical acts. Among the do-it-yourself options, touts itself as mobile development community. Its development software is powered by mobiSiteGalore. The mobiSiteGalore offers a free WYSIWYG mobile web site builder including multiple pages, a link manager and image editor. Go Daddy offers .mobi web designer tools with its WebSite Tonight feature. Wirenode offers web design tools in a free, easy-to-use WYSIWIG format that allows for text, links, graphics, analytics and some minor formatting. Jagango offers free mobi sites, a series of templates and dialog boxes for easy formatting, and a mobi community for networking.

Mobi design web sites
WebSite Tonight design site
Mobi Site Galore
Updated information at

For artists who want to be ahead of the pack, creating a “mobi” site now may increase marketing success with a very small investment, and may generate incremental sales and broaden the fan base. The combination of viral/push text messaging and having a mobile web presence allows for two-stage marketing campaigns, where a push message is sent to fans who then can respond to the call for action by visiting the mobile site to buy music, check the tour schedule, or enter contests.