Over half of all web searches are now initiated from a mobile device, and a majority of mobile users say that they wouldn’t recommend a company whose site isn’t optimized for mobile use. In a few short years, mobile internet use has rapidly overtaken desktop browsing. And, since about a quarter of the world’s websites are powered by WordPress, it’s fair to ask whether WordPress is mobile friendly enough for users to take advantage of the global shift from traditional desktop browsing to tapping on the small screen.
WordPress and the Mobile Revolution
WordPress itself is a set of core code designed originally to support blogging and other kinds of online publishing—and when it was created, the mobile market was far smaller than it is today. But the WordPress core is also free and open source software that provides a framework for creating sites of all kinds with the help of its vast array of themes and plugins. That makes it possible for WordPress developers to modify that core code as needed so that WordPress can keep pace with trends and shifts in the larger culture of the Internet—including the move to mobile.
In the past few years, some WordPress updates have added features to make the WordPress core itself more mobile friendly, but these changes are aimed at specific functions and don’t apply to WordPress sites in a global way. These changes include making a site’s admin screens mobile responsive so that site owners and administrators can work on the site and add content from any device and making images responsive rather than simply resizing them so that they can load faster and be easily viewable on phone and tablet screens.
These additions to the WordPress code itself aren’t enough to make a website wholly mobile friendly. But WordPress site owners can use a variety of tools and strategies to work with the WordPress core to optimize sites of all kinds for use on mobile devices.
What Makes a WordPress Site Mobile Friendly?
Accessing a website on a mobile device is very different from viewing it in the “traditional” way on a desktop monitor with a large screen area, a mouse, and a keyboard. Mobile screens are small and users must navigate by touch or stylus.
That means layouts need to be clean, uncluttered, and easily readable without any horizontal scrolling, fonts should be large and readable, and hyperlinks are spaced far enough apart that users can tap the correct one without accidentally tapping another. Pages should load quickly and be free of intrusive content like full-page popups.
When websites are carefully optimized for mobile, they capture user loyalty and drive sales—over half of mobile users who access an e-commerce site online end up buying something. What’s more, search engine giant Google now factors a site’s “mobile friendliness” in its overall page rankings.
Today, business and professional websites of all kinds can’t afford to miss out on mobile—and here are a few ways WordPress users can optimize new and existing WordPress sites for easy mobile viewing on devices of all kinds.
Choose a Responsive WordPress Theme
When you’re creating a site with mobile users in mind, responsiveness is key. That refers to the ability of a given page to “respond” to different screen sizes by adjusting content accordingly. If your site was designed a while ago with desktop users in mind, your WordPress theme probably isn’t responsive and your content most likely won’t appear properly on small mobile screens. Today, mobile usage is so important that just about every free and premium WordPress theme in the Theme Directory and from third-party developers is optimized for mobile viewing, so starting with a responsive theme can be the first step toward making your site mobile friendly.
Optimize Your Site With Plugins
If your site is already established and running an earlier theme that isn’t built to be responsive, it’s possible to add some mobile responsiveness with WordPress plugins that help to optimize parts of your site for easier mobile viewing. WordPress mobile plugins such as Jetpack and WPtouch can be downloaded from the WordPress plugin directory and installed on your site to add speed, image optimization, and other mobile-friendly features to your site. Because plugins are pieces of external code, they need to be updated independently of updates applied to the WordPress core code.
Avoid Pop-Ups and Incompatible Content
Mobile friendly sites need to be fast and streamlined, so it’s important to avoid any content that contributes to a slowdown. For example, Google takes a negative view of full page popups and other intrusive content that obscures viewing a page, and those things can have an impact on search rankings. Likewise, it’s important to avoid embedding content that isn’t easily compatible with mobile devices, such as Flash videos. This kind of content can slow down or stop a site’s loading time, which can drive away users.
Consider Google AMP
Create a Mobile App for Your Site
In some situations, the best way to make your site available to mobile users is to create a separate mobile app that contains essential features of your site. That can work well for companies such as large retailers that customers visit frequently or other kinds of businesses such as financial institutions, but recent stats on mobile use suggest that for casual visits to multiple sites, mobile users prefer to open a browser rather than download a site-specific app. For that reason, simply optimizing your site for use on any device might make it more accessible to the widest possible audience.
More than half of all online activity now takes place via mobile devices, and that trend is likely to continue. With mobile-friendly features in the WordPress core itself and a variety of tools and strategies for optimizing content and performance, it’s possible to optimize just about any WordPress site for viewing on mobile devices of all kinds.