Optimizing WordPress for Mobiles

Can you remember life without a mobile phone? It was different, wasn’t it? Instead of being on call all hours of the day and evening, if we were out and about, we used to have to trudge to a public telephone box to keep in touch, sometimes queuing up in a line, pulling out change, and hoping we wouldn’t run out of coins before we had finished what we needed to say. In a way, I think back to these times with fondness. If you went out fishing, or on holiday with the family, or walking the dog, you knew you were safe from work for a few hours or days, and couldn’t be contacted until you got back home.

Don’t get me wrong, I know mobiles are great devices. What would we do if we didn’t have the capability to refer to a smartphone for help in all sorts of situations? We can go abroad and tap in a translation, removing the need to carry the tourist-shaming phrase book. We can convert money, check the weather, and even order a takeout without actually speaking to anyone. When we’re bored in queues, we can now pull out our phone and play a game, write an article, or take some pictures. In fact, phones are used for all manner of tasks, the least of which is actually dialing a number and connecting with someone.

New Possibilities

We don’t have to like mobiles to appreciate the importance of linking our businesses to them and making sure we have the best possible infrastructure in place to allow customers to access us quickly and easily, no matter where they are. Making your WordPress site more accessible is a critical element in keeping your customers engaged and supportive as you evolve to meet their needs. It brings the following benefits:

  • Enables your readers to order your products swiftly, wherever they happen to be.
  • Demonstrates your commitment to staying at the front-end of technological advancements, eliminating the risk of being left behind as new software and hardware becomes available.
  • Gives you the option of updating your site from anywhere.
  • Opens up your site to a potential new customer base – smartphone users who don’t surf from PCs or laptops.
  • Keeps you close to your dashboard, giving you instant access to your site if things go wrong.
  • Allows you to quickly respond to messages and comments from customers, enhancing your online networking.

Regardless of what you think about the move to smartphones and the impact upon our privacy, you don’t have to be a genius to figure out it’s a great idea to optimize your blog for mobile users. Here’s the lowdown on how to do it . . . .

Manual Configuration

If you want to keep tight control of your site during the optimization process, you can configure your changes manually by setting up a mobile.css stylesheet for WordPress. You can then go on to customize your meta information to decide how your site should be scaled to suit various browsers and smartphone applications. If this sounds complicated, don’t worry – there are easier routes to take that are just as effective.

Automated Optimization

Don’t fancy the manual route? I don’t blame you. It’s actually much easier to optimize your WordPress site for mobile use by installing a plugin.

WPtouch

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wptouch/

In my opinion this is currently the best plugin of its kind. A free version is available and it’s quick and easy to use. If you feel like going a bit further, you can purchase the “Pro” version, which adds a number of extra features including advertising, customizable menu options, and themes designed for the iPad. It also gives you access to a comprehensive support service to troubleshoot any issues.

WP Mobile Detector

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-mobile-detector/

If you want to check out a few more options before making a final decision, take a look at this one.  Again, a free and paid version are available, so consider all the functionality for both options before you make your choice.

WordPress Mobile Pack

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-mobile-pack/

Another great plugin, this has a huge number of different themes to choose from, and a really good selection of different options to let you customize your site.

MobilePress

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/mobilepress/

Also worth you consideration, this one is really simple to configure, manage, and use.

Testing Your Site

You don’t need a fancy mobile phone to test whether your modifications work properly, so don’t feel the need to rush out and spend several hundred dollars if you’re still not a convert to the smartphone revolution. You can test your site easily with the Firefox browser by downloading a free add-on called “User Agent Switcher”. Once you have it installed you can switch between different options for site access, to check out how your site will look when accessed using different applications, including the iPhone.

WordPress, once again, demonstrates its incredible flexibility by making it ridiculously easy (and free) to optimize your site for mobile phone users.  No excuses . . . block out an hour in your schedule and you’ll probably only need about half of it to place your site on the cutting edge of Internet technology.

28 thoughts on “Optimizing WordPress for Mobiles”

  1. This is a really important topic as people are moving more and more towards mobile technology. Thanks for the insights.

  2. Hi, if using mobilepack, mobilepress, or something like that, we also must think about ‘html suggestion’ in google webmaster. As I know some mobile plugins made duplicate such as duplicate title, duplicate description, etc…..and we have to change it on ‘url parameter’ in google webmaster to avoid duplicate.

  3. Joel I have wptouch and while it does make my site mobile friendly, the default look is pretty ugly.  I am so terrible at design that I have abandoned all pretense and live with the ugliness.  Which is sad and I’m betting off-putting.  The focus and concentration required to solve this problem is greater than I have to give.  Does the pro version help with that?  Or do you??  I’ve gotten to the ‘pay to fix the problem’ point in life.  🙂

    1.  @Amy LeForge true, it’s not the greatest looking version of your site! The Pro version (I think) does have some other templates but it takes a lot of work to customize and therefore can cost a bit. Some “responsive” themes are becoming popular which essentially shrink your site on devices using different stylesheets for different “viewports”. There’s no perfect solution but it might be worth looking into themes that are responsive, or in face a completely different theme that is optimized for mobiles (which is essentially what Wptouch does). Happy to help of course!

  4. This is invaluable information, Joel.

    You are the first person to give explicit instructions.

    A great service for anyone who uses wordress – which almost everyone I know.

  5. It took me a little longer than other people to get a smart phone I liked and could use; and I love it. It does mean being more connected to work than I may like, but that is the world now.
    Thanks for the great suggestions on making sites more accessible and easy to view.
     
    Anne

    1.  @atvaillancourt Sometimes I envy the days when I didn’t carry a phone with me! Then again I have been lost a couple of times recently and with a smartphone it would have been no problem. I guess balance in everything is always best, thanks!

  6. Hey, great advice. I am going to look at this. If I run into trouble I assume you have a fee schedule for helping me. I haven’t looked before writing this. I know that the company I work for has had real issues with the mobile applications that resulted in a lot of complaints. Our business serves people on the move and in a big need, often not aware of us until they need us. Phone optimization has increased our visibility and the number of people to our local site. I am going to look at this as I revamp my own site

    1.  @gtsoblb Just give me a shout Bruce, I’ll try my best to help. Mobile apps are difficult to develop, but plugins for WordPress can certainly make an easy effective mobile version of your site an easy reality.

  7. It won’t be long before we are all using mobile phones instead of a pc/laptop – what do you think?
     
    Many people poo-poo’d the CD taking over from Vinyl (yes I remember the vinyl!).
     
    Andrew

    1.  @andrewrondeau I remember Vinyl too but that’s still around. I’m not sure my eyesight can take squinting at a small screen. For a regular user like myself a full size keyboard is a must – dictation software is a little too slow for me at the moment – and I have two screens, so I think they’ll be around for a while yet!

  8. Joel, a most timely and useful post, especially if starting with a new blog. Because it links to target market and demographics, too … cell phone addict vs using the cell phone to make phone calls. In large part depends on what you’re in the market for. It’d be interesting to know what people use their phones for. We know “business” is not the biggest fish in the internet pond  … unless we call the biggest use of the internet a business, too. On the assumption the same might apply to peoples’ cell phone use, I’d expect games, texting and even good old phone calls ranked higher than business (buying stuff). I’m sure (thanks to the www 🙂  the data is available, just haven’t bothered to look it up yet.
    ~Beat

  9. For me Joel you  have hit the ball out of the park with this one.  I have a cell phone!  Yes, i could proably up date it, but just have not caught up with the rest of the world.  (at least I am not looking for the phone booth when away from home).
     
    Sounds to me like I should go with the mobile press.  That way i could test it on firfox like you talk about,  I really do appreciate this info because when you talk about my site going mobile I am totally at a loss.
     
    Thanks again and have a wonderful week.
    debbie

    1.  @happymakernowco To be honest, my phone does little else besides make and receive calls too! I’m chained to my computer most of the day so it makes it a little pointless but it would be nice every so often 🙂

  10. Excellent! I’ve been ignoring the fact that my droid doesn’t like several of my sites.. You’ve given me instant fixes. WOOHOO..

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