June 16, 2015

WordPress Mobile-FriendlinessOver the last few months we’ve seen a number of mobile watersheds: Facebook announced that almost half of its users only use Facebook on mobile; Google announced that there were more searches from mobile devices than PCs in many key markets and that it would be giving mobile-friendly sites a boost in the SERPS for searches from mobile devices; and eCommerce shoppers are turning to their mobile devices more often.

All of which indicates that if you’re running a WordPress website that hasn’t been optimized for mobile, it’s past time you did something about it or risk being left behind as user preferences change and search engines change to satisfy their users.

The mobile revolution is old news to many, but I still regularly come across business sites and blogs that don’t look good or work well on mobile. At this point, mobile friendliness is not something that businesses can put off unless they want to see their search traffic crater and half of their potential customers choose competitors whose sites better accommodate the way they use the web.

When it comes to being mobile-friendly on WordPress, there are two basic options: responsive design or a dedicated mobile site. I’m going to lay my cards on the table and say that in 2015, responsive web design is the way to go and a dedicated mobile site shouldn’t be an option.

Responsive design is the name for a set of web coding practices and technologies that will allow a web page to change in response to the size of the device it is being loaded on. It will look great on everything from a 27” monitor to an iPhone.

Creating a responsive site in WordPress is not difficult. The easiest way is to simply buy a responsive theme, of which there are many available, both free and premium. Retrofitting an existing theme for responsive design is not quite so easy, but nor is it especially challenging for an experienced WordPress developer.

It’s certainly going to be less expensive than creating a new mobile site from scratch. The disadvantages of building a mobile dedicated site include:

  • Expense – Development costs for the new site.
  • SEO – Mobile sites are served from a different URL — often a subdomain. You’ll have your work cut out to bring your mobile site up to the same SEO standard as its full-sized sibling.
  • Maintenance – Two sites means double to maintenance work.

There are plugins that offer a shortcut to a mobile-friendly site, including WP Touch and the Jetpack Mobile Theme, but both of these options are rather hacky and neither will allow you to provide a coherent user experience and branding across both mobile and desktop.

For the vast majority of bloggers and WordPress business site owners, responsive design is the way forward. If you are still running a site that isn’t mobile-friendly, now is the time to go responsive.


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