Mobile Internet usage is a rapidly growing phenomenon, and it’s becoming increasingly important for website owners (especially businesses) to make sure their websites are just as usable on a smartphone or tablet as they are on a computer.
The screen of an iPad measures 9.7 inches diagonally, which is quite a bit smaller than a standard 13- or 15-inch display on a laptop, and a lot smaller than 25-inch or so display on a desktop computer!
When considering mobile phone usage, how your site uses the available screen real estate becomes very important. In addition, users interact with the iPad by touching it with their fingertips.
I don’t know about you, but my fingertips sure are a lot bigger than the tiny point of a mouse cursor!
If you have an iPad, or have access to one, take a couple of minutes to navigate to your site using it.
Can you see all the content on the site? Is it easy to read? Can you easily click on the links?
In most cases, I would say that the iPad version of your site could do with being a bit easier to read, touch and view.
Here are three things you can do, right now, to make sure that iPad users have a good experience when they visit your site.
If you’re not sure what the info means in relation to your website, the key takeway message is to have a look at your website on an iPad and if it doesn’t look quite right, please contact me and we’ll work on fixing it 🙂
1. Mobile Browsing
Hopefully you’ve got a plugin to optimise your site for smartphone users (like WP touch). That’s a good start.
But did you know that when iPad users navigate to your site, they won’t see the WP touch theme?
Instead, the iPad will bring up the normal browser version of your site. That means that in order to click on links made smaller by the iPad’s screen size, they’ll have to use their bulky fingertips to make sure they don’t hit the wrong thing by mistake.
There’s a great little plugin for WordPress called OnSwipe, which will make your site look and feel like a native iPad app.
Not only does OnSwipe optimise your site for iPad users, it does so in a very classy way. Like WP touch, it implements a custom theme (that you have minimal control over) to make navigating your site on an iPad a truly enjoyable magazine-style experience. You can upload an image that visitors will see as the “cover” of your site, and an icon that will be used if users decide to bookmark your site on their iPad’s home screen.
In the Onswipe environment users can use the “menu” button to access the different pages and posts on your site. Pages pop up from the menu button and are displayed full-screen, which makes them easier to read. However, OnSwipe also themes your posts index page in a way that makes it heavily reliant on images. This reliance on images means that you need to ensure that you have used an appropriate image as the “featured image” on each post. If you don’t know how to do this, or your current theme doesn’t support featured images, contact me for advice!
I recommend OnSwipe for many WordPress users, especially if you want your blog to take centre stage. It works best for sites that have a lot of blog content, but perhaps wouldn’t be as suited to sites that mainly use static pages, for instance eCommerce sites.
One big drawback to the plugin at the moment is that it doesn’t support sidebars, so any email signup widgets or social media links you have in your sidebar will not show up. There are also a few other limitations to the theme. Onswipe is a new plugin and will develop more in the future – stay tuned!
2. RSS Feeds
If you have a blog, you should have an RSS feed. RSS (“Really Simple Syndication”) means that visitors can subscribe to blog updates in a centralised place, whether it’s their email client, browser, Google Reader, or a specialised RSS app.
Many mobile users read RSS feeds on their device, and the iPad is no exception. On my iPad, I use a brilliant app called Byline. Byline syncs with Google Reader and provides a more enjoyable RSS experience than the mobile version of Google Reader. It also downloads feeds for offline reading, which is handy when I’m about to get on a plane!
RSS feeds are a stripped-down version of your blog content, so you need to think about the information that they aren’t going to show, for instance the navigation bar from your site. Many plugins, ads and other content won’t display on your feed, so check to make sure that RSS subscribers are getting the same experience as a visitor to your site would. Some plugins have options specifically for how they are displayed in your RSS feed. You should also subscribe to your own feed so you can see exactly what your updates look like.
Famously, the iPad doesn’t support Flash. So if you have fancy moving banners, or an animated header, iPad users will just see a blank space. Likewise, some of the videos on your website may not work properly for mobile users.
To easily ensure that videos appear correctly not only on your blog, but also in RSS feeds, use a plugin like Smart YouTube. Smart YouTube makes sure that your YouTube videos are embedded correctly in your WordPress site and RSS feed. This means that visitors from all devices will be able to actually watch your video, and not just see a blank space!
There are many things you can do to ensure that all visitors have a great experience when visiting your site. Hopefully these three tips have helped you get started, but if you have any further tips, tricks and plugin suggestions, please leave a comment below.
If you want some more recommendations on great WordPress plugins, check out my FREE WordPress Plugins eBook!
About our Guest Blogger
This article was written by Tessa Needham of Tessa Needham Creative. Tess is a whizz with all things WordPress. She created this WordPress website and many others for the Grassroots team and our clients. Whether you want to outsource your WordPress website design and development or get someone to help you Do-It-Yourself, Tess is the perfect person to help.