Thanks to its flexibility and integrated HTML5 capabilities, WordPress offers one of the best platforms out there for delivering excellent mobile-first design. Its default theme, TwentyEleven, is pretty responsive and mobile-friendly as is. As discussed in previous posts on responsive design, it’s massively important that mobile browsers are put first when it comes to designing a site. In fact, the chances are that you are probably reading this on a mobile device.
Those of us not lucky enough to have a 4G carrier plan often browse the web over 3G connections. These can often be patchy, and it’s totally infuriating if a page hangs or refuses to load. It can really push users – and therefore ad revenue or potential customers – away from your main presence on the web. Even on a poorly-designed WordPress site, this can affect traffic. Thankfully, there’s a load of simple – but great – ways you can quickly overcome this hurdle. Let’s take a look at a few.
Plugins are the WordPress designer’s bread and butter. They offer quick fixes to many of the problems mobile users tend to run into. They’re not just for the casual crowd either. While plugins are no substitute for the hard graft we designers put into things, they really can be used to great effect if used correctly.
Take WPTouch. With over 6 million downloads, you might be confused by the simplicity of the plugin. It doesn’t affect your desktop site whatsoever, but converts your site to an entirely mobile-friendly design for mobile users; displaying any content in an easy-to-read, streamlined, fast way. You’d be right in thinking it was pretty no-frills, but what it gives us is a sort of one-click blank slate that designers can build upon – thanks to its massively customisable nature. Premium versions are available with enhanced customisation options, themes, support and features.
There’s plenty of other WordPress plugins out there: see the more comprehensive WordPress Mobile Pack – which offers much better analytics integration, a truly responsive UI, and a mind-boggling number of features by aiming to convert your site into a ‘web app’.
Plugins aren’t the answer to everything, but some of them can offer very powerful answers to mobile design woes if you don’t want to go down the responsive mobile-first route and want to keep your desktop site separate.
Of course, if you’re building a site from the ground up, you’ll obviously want to invest in quality, bespoke web design. However, it’s understandable that many people – particularly casual users or bloggers – might want to make their pages mobile-friendly at little or no expense. Similarly, designers might wish for something basic that can be built up into a whole project. This is where mobile-friendly themes come in.
There’s thousands of pages out there listing the “best mobile-friendly / responsive WordPress themes”, so I won’t bore you with doing that. What I want to encourage you to think about is using themes to build something unique – something that will make your site immediately recognisable.
A great example of a theme that allows you to do this is Bones. It’s minimalist and pretty bare when it comes to features, but it’s mobile-first, responsive, and has a whole host of features for rapid development.
I hope this has given you an insight into some of the ways you can easily make your WordPress site responsive and mobile-friendly. Remember, you can use themes and plugins alongside one another to build a really strong responsive site.
However, while using a lot of plugins is an easy way to get your site mobile-ready, using too many can seriously slow down your site loading times – making them a potentially very counter-intuitive move. If you’re looking for professional design, though, there’s no substitute for planning and designing a site from the ground-up. We’ll soon be looking at how you can get much better mobile results – without plugins. Until next time.