December 16, 2008

Make your website mobile-friendly

As a webmaster, you typically concern yourself with how your site would look on a 17" desktop monitor or a 15" laptop screen, etc. But have you ever thought about how your site would appear on various types of mobile phones? Mobile phones have a much smaller screen than PC's, different aspect ratios, and a very different navigation system. Here's how a site would look on a mobile phone if it were only designed for a PC browser:

Fig 1: A site designed for PC browsers as viewed on a mobile phone

The user would only see a portion of the web page without scrolling vertically and horizontally. Navigating through the various components of the page and interacting
with the UI would be very cumbersome, and chances are images and logos wouldn't render correctly.
But why should webmasters care about how their site looks on these alternate displays? Aren't websites meant to be browsed on desktop computers and laptops with internet connections? The rapidly evolving answer, especially in India, is only sometimes. In a country where internet penetration is low, mobile penetration is quite healthy at almost 300 million. And some estimates put the number of web-enabled phones (phones capable of browsing your website) at more than the number of PC internet users in India. So as a webmaster whose major goal is maximize traffic to your site, you should definitely aim for your website to appear on mobile phones as follows:

Fig 2: A site designed for mobile phones

Now the user can see the entire content of the page without having to scroll, can navigate between the various parts of the page and can interact with the UI very naturally. So how can one build a mobile-friendly site? Here's a list of top concerns and tips/tricks, which we plan to elaborate on in subsequent blog posts:

  • Markup language - Can the HTML site carry over to the Mobile, or should the mobile site be in XHTML, WML or CHTML?
  • Form factor and navigation capabilities of the target handset - Screen size, stylus or touch-screen needs to be taken into account
  • Automatic "transcoders" - Some gateways like Google Search, transcode your desktop site to a mobile site and can be leveraged
  • Fancy Web 2.0 sites for Mobile - It's now possible on more and more Mobile browsers to leverage Javascript, Ajax and audio/video

With the growing mobile data usage in India and other countries, you can't afford to miss reaching an important (and for millions of users the only) internet access device. Now it's not as much work as you might think - over the next few weeks, we intend to show you how to make your site mobile-friendly with minimal customization for each platform.

December 12, 2008

India Zeitgeist 2008

As 2008 comes to a close, it is time to reflect on what captivated us during the year. With this intention, we mined billions of search queries that we got from Indian users to give us a glimpse into the zeitgeist — the spirit of the times.

To understand this collective psyche we created three classifications of top ten queries: queries by volume, queries showing significant growth and queries from various categories such as bollywood celebrities, sports stars and "how to" requests. For the first time, we also analyzed the top ten queries from mobile and queries in Hindi and Tamil. The complete list or zeitgeist is fascinating, and we encourage you to browse through the results. We've highlighted a few of our observations below.

* Social networking sites continue to make the top ten lists for most popular and fastest growing queries for the second consecutive year continuing to demonstrate their importance in our everyday online activities.
* We compared search patterns between desktop searches and mobile phone searches. In the morning, desktop searches are fairly low while mobile searches are fairly significant, most probably due to people catching up on email and updating social networks. As the day progresses and people reach their offices, the search volume from desktop shoots up dramatically as people track stock prices and search for business related information. However, as people leave for their homes in the evening, mobile search volume once again rises and then peaks near midnight as people get their daily fill of entertainment news, specifically bollywood.
* It was equally interesting to see our users asking a wide range of questions such as "Where to invest", "why MBA", and "How to get pregnant".

If you are curious to analyze trends in an area of your interest then try Google trends . This tool allows you to compare traffic volume for multiple search queries on a relative scale (e.g. Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi ) along with what is fastest rising . The tool also allows you to compare traffic trends among websites as well through feature called trends for websites or view a specific vertical through Google Insights.

As always during our Year-End Zeitgeist, all of the search queries we studied are anonymous — no personal information was used. Have fun analyzing our India 2008 Zeitgeist.

Prizes for Panchayats

Earlier today, announced the launch of the Gram Panchayat Puraskar (GGPP) to celebrate innovative panchayats and encourage more innovation in local governance throughout the will reward the top five panchayats in two states, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, with a cash prize of Rs.5 lakhs (approximately $10,000 USD) which they can use to do more good in their communities.

To learn more about or the Gram Panchayat Puraskar, please visit the
Official Blog and the contest website.

December 5, 2008

Search made easy on your mobile phone

It has always been difficult to type on a mobile phone keyboard to search. Recently a group of us at Google got together and decided to find a solution, and we think we've made things much easier. We recently introduced related search and popular queries for your mobile phone. These two features should increase the speed and ease with which you are able to find information through your mobile device.

Popular queries show you what other people are searching the most. You can click on the 'Popular Queries' link on the search home page to get a list of popular searches. I often find my day's breaking news by looking at the popular queries.

Related search shows you a list of search queries that are related to your search query. For example, if you search for bollywood, you are probably searching for your favorite celebrity on your mobile. I just tried my favorite celebrity "Katrina Kaif" and the related search showed me "Salman Khan" and a few others. Without having to type my next search, I could use the related searches to keep finding out more information on the ever changing personal relationships of celebrities I'm interested in!

Go ahead and try these features on your mobile phone browser today to ease and speed your mobile search life!