Even though 90% of all time spent on mobile devices in the U.S. is spent using mobile apps, a mobile website is still very important and where you should start from, for at least two reasons:
- Mobile users will most likely land on your mobile site when searching for your content on search engines.
- Secondly, when your content is shared on social networks, people will often land on your mobile site (e.g. from the Facebook app)
Once you have a good mobile site sorted, with your site’s mobile app, you can cover the app stores and provide a quick and comfortable way to access content for your loyal users, driving more engagement and repeated use with push notifications.
With that in mind, in this post, we’ll guide you through some of the best free and premium mobile plugins and experiment with them on a test website to evaluate their final outcome and performance.
Let’s put this all into context before we get started.
Mobile Sites vs Responsive Design
If you’re trying to grow your business online and want to leverage search to attract visitors to your website, then creating a mobile website is vital.
It’s important to clarify that a responsive website and a mobile website are two different things. Responsive sites are often not designed “mobile first”, or with mobile users as the first use case in mind, which often results in a reduced version of the desktop site. This is where a mobile site designed more like an app – with mobile users first in mind and loading nothing else than strictly necessary – can offer a better experience.
Let’s take a look at some of the best plugins for WordPress publishers in this space.
9 Plugins to Create Mobile-Optimized WordPress Websites
There are many interesting and useful plugins for creating mobile WordPress websites. We’ve hand-picked some of the best and tested them out for you to help you gain insight into which one fits your needs best.
The first candidate on our list is a premium plugin called Obox Mobile that features a Customizer for styling a number of mobile themes that are optimized for performance. Users can make live changes on the fly by modifying the theme’s page elements to fit their site’s brand.
Obox Mobile features a widgetized homepage that allows users to choose which content to display and how to display it. In addition to this, it is also the first plugin that offers a sidebar to which you can add all of your favorite widgets.
Among all the ones I tested, this was my favorite.
- Obox Review: Lots of Control but Occasionally Complex on WPMU DEV
- The Best WordPress Mobile Plugins on Elegant Themes
TapTap is a very powerful, mobile menu plugin that can be used on every kind of WordPress website – whether it’s a portfolio site or a business site. With this plugin, site owners and developers can create unique mobile versions of their WordPress sites, starting from their existing responsive template.
For $19, this plugin offers great value for money and comes with support from the developers. If you’re not on a tight budget, then TapTap is definitely worth a shot. Be sure to check out examples of their mobile-optimized site on the demo page.
- Easily Add a Mobile Menu to WordPress with the TapTap Plugin on Envato
- 10 of the Best WordPress Plugins for Mobile Optimization on Looks Awesome
WPtouch Mobile is one of the most popular free mobile site plugins for WordPress. WPtouch Mobile is a simple yet powerful plugin for WordPress that creates a mobile-friendly version of your website and adds an elegant theme to it automatically when a mobile user visits it.
One of the best features about this one of a kind plugin is that it offers a plethora of customization options that allow site owners to personalize the mobile theme’s look and feel. Best of all, you can deliver optimal user experience without having to write a single line of code.
The mobile site created with this plugin is visually enticing and gives your site an app-like appearance. You’ll find a hamburger menu in the header along with a search bar. WPtouch Mobile Plugin delivers exceptional user experience; however, it doesn’t fare as well in the speed department.
The plugin is extremely easy to use for both web developers and newbies alike. When you’re ready to take things further, you can upgrade to the pro version to leverage its advanced functionality.
WPTouch Pro offers a number of themes for different kinds of sites, such as the MobileStore theme we reviewed last week, designed to turn an ecommerce site into a sleek mobile website.
Mobile Site Preview
- WPTouch: A Quick and Easy Way to Make Your WordPress Website Mobile-Friendly on WP Explorer
- Review: WPTouch for WordPress on HTML Goodies
Any Mobile Theme Switcher plugin gives site owners full control over their site’s mobile version and enables them to deliver a consistent browsing experience to all mobile devices. The plugin requires users to configure each mobile device’s settings and then loads them accordingly when a visitor accesses your website.
This mobile plugin lets users select a different mobile theme for each mobile browser. Any Mobile Theme Switcher offers many customization options for delivering optimal browsing experience to all mobile devices. The plugin’s settings panel is intuitive and self-explanatory.
There wasn’t any difference in the site’s appearance before and after this plugin was installed. You’ll need to pick a different theme for your mobile site, which could be useful if you need to maintain an old desktop theme and you’ve found something more suitable for your mobile site. This plugin will allow you to use both at the same time.
WordPress Mobile Pack is a feature-rich mobile website plugin for WordPress that enables users to package their existing content into a cross-platform mobile web application. It features a mobile-optimized user interface that doesn’t only detect varying screen sizes but is also sensitive to orientation changes.
The standout feature with this plugin is that it empowers site owners to offer an app-like mobile browsing experience. WordPress Mobile Pack ships with 6 different covers with even more options available in the pro version.
WordPress Mobile Pack isn’t exactly a lightweight solution as it reduces the performance of your site in our testing. That said, the mobile site’s design looks intuitive and modern with a hamburger menu in the top corner for easy navigation. The design’s focus is on images and if you’re photography is not particularly stunning, the result might not be that impressive.
Mobile Site Preview
- Beyond Responsiveness, the WordPress Mobile Pack Plugin on SitePoint
- Best Mobile Plugins for WordPress on WPMayor
The WP Mobile Detector works by detecting the browser’s mobile device and then displaying a mobile-optimized theme that is most compatible with their tier of mobile device. It supports both standard mobile devices and smartphones.
This powerful plugin ships with a wide range of feature including advanced mobile statistics, image resizing, and formatted content. In addition to this, the plugin can detect and differentiate between 5,000 mobile devices. WP Mobile Detector is a great alternative for site owners who crave versatility. The plugin comes with 11 mobile-optimized themes right out of the box.
WP Mobile Detector is a bit difficult to get started with in that the Settings page was completely blank the first few times I installed the plugin. When things finally settled down, the blog posts’ featured images wouldn’t show up in the mobile site preview.
If you’re technically minded, you’ll be able to figure out your way around this, however, I wouldn’t recommend it to site owners who aren’t particularly tech-savvy. The plugin doesn’t automatically rescale images to fit better on the mobile view which gives makes the appearance feel a bit out-dated.
This free plugin also has a pro version that offers advanced features and support from the developers.
Mobile Site Preview
- WP Mobile Detector Premium Plugin Review on LightSpeed
- 5 WordPress Mobile Themes to Optimize Your Site for Mobile Devices on About Web Trends
The WP Mobile Edition plugin markets itself as a complete toolkit to mobilize your WordPress site. The plugin’s distinct features are its mobile switcher functionality and set of mobile-optimized themes. The plugin guarantees to give your site’s visitors a fully optimized mobile browsing experience.
This powerful plugin detects which device the user is accessing your website from and sets up a mobile view for them based on their specified preferences. And when your visitors return to your site, the plugin automatically switches to the theme of their choice.
The overall look and feel of the mobile site created with WP Mobile Edition is quite… dated. If you don’t mind the “vintage” look, it’s still an option worth considering.
Mobile Site Preview
Like others, Mobile Smart is a robust plugin for WordPress that automatically switches your site’s theme if a user accesses it from a mobile device.
An interesting feature is that the Mobile Smart plugin detects which tier of mobile device is accessing your site. Site owners can configure the plugin to allow conditional content inclusion based on the user’s device.
The plugin is available for free in the WordPress plugin repository and when you want to take things to the next level you can go for its pro version which offers advanced functionality.
Automattic’s Jetpack Mobile Theme offers a lightweight solution to achieving mobile site functionality without having to install an extra plugin. The plugin supports all of the major mobile operating systems from the get-go and dramatically improves your site’s readability. The plugin enables visitors to toggle between mobile mode and desktop mode while they’re viewing your site.
When it comes to configuration, Jetpack’s Mobile Theme lets users to choose whether they want to display excerpts and featured images. Aside from these basic features, however, Jetpack doesn’t have much to offer. The plugin also creates a drop-down menu and a search bar in the header which makes it easy for mobile users to navigate through your site.
The plugin doesn’t come even with website monetization functionality which could prove to be useful for sites receiving lots of traffic. This solution is ideal for site owners who are keen on using a lightweight plugin and don’t mind the basic design.
Mobile Site Preview
- How To Use Jetpack Plugin WordPress Mobile Theme Feature on Shout Me Loud
Wrapping It Up
Thankfully, WordPress offers a wide range of plugins that website owners can leverage to build their own mobile website. We encourage you to experiment with these solutions on your own and decide for yourself which one is truly the best for your site’s needs.
If you’re a WordPress publisher you need to make sure your website is always up-to-date, user-friendly, and accessible. We’ve compiled a list of the 5 Best WordPress themes for News Publishers here!
Want to learn all about building and launching mobile apps for your WordPress site? If you liked this article, you’ll love the Mobile App Strategy Ebook. Download it today, for free.