Clusty Search Joins the Mobile Fray

The soon-to-be released iPhone is being accompanied with a flurry of activity in the mobile Internet marketplace - everything from a new mobile Windows operating system to YouTube for mobile and an overhaul of MSN for mobile. Joining the mix is Clusty, a search engine now optimized for mobile search. Clusty gets its name from their method of clustering search results combed from the top search engines. By showing results in clusters, the user is spared from having to click to page after page of results to find something that, while relevant, may have been somewhat buried in typical results.

Clusty aims to take the hassle out of mobile searching by providing relevant search results in a variety of categories while optimizing each of those sites for the mobile screen before the results hit the user's handheld device. One nice feature is a list of suggested searches at the bottom of the page - potentially saving the searcher from having to type in a new query.

Road Test: First impressions are positive. A search for Chicago returns cluters in the categories of University, Museum/Art, Music, City of Chicago, Photos, Jobs, Weather, Hotel, Chicago Cubs and Theatre, in that order. A little further down the page shows a brief synopsis of the city, related sites and searches and a brief weather forecast. The first site selected (a site for city services) did not completely load. Another site (Citysearch) loaded quickly and was optimized for the mobile screen.

A more refined search for Celtic Crown, a local pub in Chicago, returned clusters for Rings, Chicago, Tiaras, Art, Rugby, Celtic Symbols and Tattoos, in that order. Clicking on Chicago returned a description of the establishment, address and phone number from a local city guide site - as the fourth result but again, optimized to the mobile screen.

As a mobile search guide, the Clusty does a good job returning results in categories so that the user can get closer to what they were searching for without having to scroll down numerous pages. Sites visited as a result of the search seem to be well-optimized to the mobile screen. However, in a self-defeating way, every time you search or click on a cluster to further refine your search you are returned to the top of the page and presented with clusters all over again, instead of the links and descriptions. For those, you need to scroll down another three or more screens. As a mobile search engine, you would think the site would be optimized to show results as near as possible to the top of the page, eliminated the need to scroll again and again. But this isn't a problem specific to Clusty - most mobile sites require an inordinate amount of scrolling to get what you want.

The mobile marketplace is certainly heating up. There's a big market out there and interest in capturing a piece of it seems to be surging in the past several months. But you don't need to be a giant like Google, Yahoo or MSN to take advantage of this burgeoning market. Be sure to get your free subscription to Website Magazine - our August issue will reveal how to prepare your site for mobile users so that you can get in the game early.