A few months ago, the folks at Mobify were kind enough to create a mobile version of my site using their service. Mobify is a web-based service that allows you to create a custom mobile version of your site.
Since my redesign, I got an opportunity to play with the service first-hand and felt that it might be good to share my experience.
What does Mobify offer?
Why would anybody use a service like Mobify? Isn't a mobile stylesheet enough? In some cases it might be but Mobify aims to provide a superior experience for mobile users over and above what a simple stylesheet can provide.
One key feature is selective content. Using their web-based interface, you can select a page of your site to be used as a template for similar content—such as a blog post. Click on the areas of the design that you'd like to use. This allows extraneous content to be easily removed. For example, to save bandwidth, my footer links will not appear in the mobile version.
Your custom template can then be styled using its own stylesheet. Changes are made and a preview is provided so you can see what your site might look like on various mobile platforms such as the iPhone and Blackberry. I ended up pasting in my full stylesheet and then paring it down to what I needed to maintain the consistency of the design.
Mobify automatically detects whether a template should be applied to a page using some secret algorithm. It's pretty smart, at least for my site. I have three templates set up: home page, article page, and static page (Work, About and Contact pages).
Over the pipe, Mobify compresses the HTML, images and CSS to create a quick experience for mobile users.
The service also offers up plugins for popular blogging tools to make it easy to detect and redirect mobile devices.
Where does Mobify not hit the mark?
Performance is definitely a concern. All mobile requests have to go through Mobify which then has to pull the content from your site and parse it, including resizing images. That can add a noticable delay to the process.
And while they have plugins for a number of popular blogging tools, I had problems integrating their Apache redirect into my custom backend. I never could figure out why my short links created infinite loops (my regex/redirect-fu is apparently not as strong as I'd have myself believe). If you're using a popular tool like WordPress, this is unlikely to be an issue.
The basic plan is free and supports custom mobile domains, which—if you don't mind the Mobify branding—is worth it. I do feel that $25 per month is expensive just to remove the branding and to get analytics. A yearly fee of $99 would feel easier to swallow than ongoing monthly costs.
Overall, I like the service and I see some definite benefits to using a service like this. The free version is definitely an easy and inexpensive way to get a quality mobile version of your site up.