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New wizards to take idiots onto phones

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Now anyone can have a mobile web site, thanks to Ubik: an idiot-proof toolkit released by Volantis that talks users through creating their own mobile web presence. Though it won't tell you why you would want to do so.

Guildford-based Volantis' primary business is making servers to deliver content to mobile devices, but it recently took the open-source pill and decided to give away their software for free.

Not content with handing out server software, the company is now giving away an on-line design services in the form of Ubik. Users, who pay nothing, are walked through the process of designing a mobile web site, based on templates in a process that's eerily reminiscent of the tools handed out by ISPs in the early days of the internet.

What those early tools - and Ubik - create is a series of identikit web sites that must rely on the quality of their text and pictures to stand out from the crowd. The problem is that most people with decent content are prepared to create a site capable of showing it off, while those who resort to a wizard-driven design process tend to be those whose content needs all the help it can get.

Thus those original website design wizards largely disappeared, but Volantis reckons the mobile web is more complicated, and the design choices more limited, so their Ubik tool will have greater longevity.

The company points out that here in the West the mobile web tends to be about finding the nearest pizza place or downloading maps. But elsewhere there are more users accessing the internet from a mobile phone than sitting in front of a screen, and they are browsing for content on the whole range of topics.

Having said that Volantis cheerfully admits they've no idea who might use Ubik, or how they're going to make any money out of it. In true Web 2.0 style they have thoughts about targeted advertising or white-labelling it to network operators, but nothing specific.

If you rapidly need a mobile web site then Ubik works, but whether it's really going to open the door to anything more than dozens of identical sites with very little to say remains to be seen. If you do use it then just make sure your content is compelling enough to survive the identikit approach endemic in such tools. ®

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