How to optimise your WordPress website for mobile visitors

Have you looked at your website on a smartphone lately? A tablet? Chances are, if you have one of these devices, you have noticed that some websites look great on them, and some look… well, tiny.

So how can you ensure that your website looks great for all visitors, and more importantly, gives them the information they need at the touch of a finger?

This article outlines some of the ways you can make your site mobile friendly, and how to go about doing it. It doesn’t need to cost an arm and a leg, but it will require some strategising on your part.

Why do I need a mobile website?

Basically, you need a mobile site because there are a growing number of mobile Internet devices in the marketplace, and more people are accessing the web from these small-screen gadgets than ever before.

It’s my opinion that everyone needs a mobile site. But the way you create this will depend on the nature of your visitors.

Why would someone visit my website from a mobile device?

The most important question to ask yourself first is: “Why are mobile visitors browsing my site?”

If you’re a restaurant, perhaps they will be looking to make a reservation, or for a map to find you when they’re already in the car. If you have a blog, mobile visitors might want to read your articles, perhaps while they’re on the train or sitting on the couch. If you’re a photographer, mobile visitors will likely want to see a sampling of your best work, perhaps with the ability to contact you easily.

Investigating the reason for mobile traffic to your site will be a huge help when it comes to deciding what type of mobile website you need.

Types of mobile websites

There are a few ways you can mobilise your WordPress website:

  1. Create a brand-new mobile version
  2. Use a plugin
  3. Use a responsive theme

I’ll cover the reasons for using each of these, and their pros and cons, in the sections below.

1. Creating a brand-new mobile version of your website

One option you have is to make a brand-new version of your website that will only be visible to visitors using smartphones and/or tablets. When people navigate to your site, the site will detect that they are using a mobile device and will switch to the mobile version.

There are many examples of this around. For instance, try going to your banking website on your smartphone and see how the information is presented differently. Often the domain name of a mobile website will have an “m” in front of it or after it, for instance m.domain.com.au. Another example of situation where a mobile website may be the best option is an eCommerce website, where customers are shopping online and may need a very different interface for shopping on their smartphone.

Creating a separate mobile website is by far the most expensive option here, so you should really consider how important it will be to your business. Not only is it expensive, but also if you change anything on your website, you will also need to make that change on the mobile website, making it more tricky to maintain. This is the most major downside to this option.

However, for some businesses, making a separate mobile website will be the way to go. If a mobile version of your website would have a distinctly different purpose than the normal desktop version, you could even consider building an app!

If you’re interested in this option, you might want to check out these services for creating mobile websites:

2. Using a mobile plugin

Another option that will make your WordPress website more friendly to mobile users is to install a mobile theme plugin. These plugins activate a separate WordPress theme for mobile visitors.

Some examples of these plugins are:

The benefit of using a plugin like this is the ease of use – all you need to do is install and activate a plugin, and your site will immediately be more accessible for mobile visitors. However, the downside of this is that you will lose much of the customisation you’ve done on your website. A new theme will be applied, which may mean that some of the functionality of your website will be lost.

A mobile plugin is the quickest, easiest and cheapest option to make your site mobile friendly. It does have its downsides, however for some users it may be all that is needed to create a satisfactory experience for mobile visitors.

3. Using a responsive theme

The third option is to choose a responsive theme for your WordPress site, or modify your existing theme to be responsive. I’ve written an entire article about responsive design, but in a nutshell, it means that your WordPress theme will adapt its elements to fit into to the “viewport” (screen) that it’s being viewed on. You can see this in action on your computer, by resizing the window of a website to watch how it responds.

My personal preference when creating a mobile website is to use responsive design. In fact, my website is responsive, so head over there now if you’d like to see it in action.

The great thing about responsive design is that it doesn’t matter which device you’re viewing the website on, it will always adapt to be the optimal configuration. For most sites, especially blogs, this is the best option to choose. It doesn’t require updating several websites at once, and you have a lot of control over how it looks. However, if you don’t choose a ready-made responsive design, you will need a developer to “retrofit” your site to be responsive.

I use and highly recommend StudioPress, and many of their themes are responsive out of the box. If you’d like to use a StudioPress theme, or are already using one, get in touch! I can help you customise it to be mobile responsive.

So as you can see, you have a few options when making your site mobile-friendly. The most important place to start is to think about why people will be visiting on a mobile device. From there, you can decide which option is right for you.