How to Make your WordPress Site Ready for Mobile

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You might not be the type of person who relies heavily on smartphones and tablets, but it won’t be a surprise if I say many others are moving in this direction. According to comScore, mobile devices make up roughly 55% of all internet usage in the United States alone.

And guess what? This trend is not set to slow down anytime in the near future.

What it means for content publishers

As somebody who browses the internet, it doesn’t matter if you are doing so via a smartphone, tablet, or traditional computer. The only thing you care about is being presented with the appropriate content in an easy to read format.

Anybody who takes one look at the following stats, will realize a mobile friendly website, or better a whole mobile content strategy, is a must:

  • There are more than 2 billion mobile web users throughout the world.
  • 25% percent of search queries are now completed on mobile devices.
  • China has more mobile internet users than any other country.
  • 65% of emails get opened first on a mobile device.
  • 76% of Facebook’s monthly active users are on mobile.

As you study these numbers, it is hard not to get lost in the opportunity that lies ahead.

Not only are there billions of mobile web users, but an opportunity to reach a worldwide audience exists, and increasingly so, as mobile Internet penetration continues to grow in developing countries.

Have you been impacted?

Those who have yet to get involved with the mobile revolution often times come up with a variety of excuses for lagging behind, including the fact that they “don’t want to fix what isn’t broken.”

But remember one thing: just because you continue to have a moderate to high level of online success doesn’t mean you aren’t missing the boat.

You have no control over the device your audience chooses to use.

With more and more people turning to smartphones and tablets, websites that are not designed for mobile will continue to be passed by.

If you continue to neglect this growing audience, you could lose out in many ways:

  • Less traffic, as habits change and mobile takes over desktop use.
  • Fewer people sharing your content, both via email and socially.
  • Fewer people subscribing to your email list.
  • Losing ad revenue and monetization opportunities.

The first step for you to figure out just how much you’ve been impacted, is to check the proportion of users accessing your site from a mobile device. Google Analytics allows you to plot your traffic and isolate mobile traffic, meaning you’ll be able to quickly spot any pattern. It’s common for content sites to get between 30% and 60% of their traffic from mobile devices these days.

Solutions to the Problem

It can be a challenge to convert a traditional website into one that is mobile friendly.

It doesn’t mean you should shy away or stick with your current technology and hope for the best.

There are many solutions to this problem, some of which will suit you better than others.

1. Build or convert your site to responsive design

Is your website or blog built on WordPress? If so, moving to a responsive theme could be a relatively simple task. That means abandoning your current site design for one that has the ability to adapt to different browser sizes. The content is rearranged and resized to fit any screen size.

Responsive WordPress themes continue to grow in popularity, with some of the best options found here and here.

If you’d like to convert your existing design, it’s possible, but my advice is to think again. It is a common myth that your current theme can be converted to a responsive theme with a click of the mouse. Once you’ve started down this route, you will soon realize there are many adjustments that follow. So many that a new build is often a good idea. Most time the result is sub-optimal – after all, it’s an adaptation of your desktop design, not a mobile specific design we’re talking about.

A common problem: if you are running ads on your website, these may not display appropriately on mobile devices. As a result, you could lose out on revenue.

Below is an excerpt of a post from a member of the official WordPress Support forum, which sums up some of the potential problems:

“I’ve tested about 20 “responsive themes” and almost none were great. I’ve also tested some premium themes that claim to be responsive and they weren’t responsive either without adding media queries and several lines of CSS. Almost all responded to screen size but most didn’t adjust fonts well, or did OK on landscape on Android but not in portrait. We’ll have to see how this evolves.”

2. Use a WordPress Plugin to build a mobile site

Rather than convert to a responsive theme, you can install mobile optimization plugins, such as the great WPTouch Pro, that does all the work for you.

There are two reasons why this is a popular choice:

  • It’s a quick solution that doesn’t require much tech knowledge or development skills.
  • One of the easiest ways to make your content accessible on all mobile devices, on the web at least.

Here are a few of the key features of such plugins:

  • Faster than responsive or desktop themes, which is a big benefit when catering to mobile visitors.
  • Mobile-specific menus to allow for simpler navigation.
  • Mobile optimised article and static pages, ensuring that every page of your website is converted to a mobile version.

Even if you’re planning on building an app, it’s definitely worth having a mobile-optimized site so you can ensure organic search traffic and users coming from social apps will land on a site they’ll enjoy reading from their devices.

3. Build a Mobile App

While the biggest publishers could have internal resources to dedicate to designing and building their own apps, many of you will probably require the assistance of a professional app development company to show them the way.

Yes, this means you’re likely to spend substantial money on your app – agencies would charge between $15,000 and $50,000 for a custom news app. It also means it will take a few weeks or months even for your app to reach completion.

That is, if you’re going down the custom build route. There are quicker and cheaper alternatives, like our MobiLoud, which I’ll cover below.

Given that 89% of time spent on devices is via apps, a mobile app is a necessary tool for you to improve your reach and grow your audience. Here are some of the many benefits of a mobile app for your site:

  • You can design it to focus on your content alone, leaving out any clutter.
  • Your brand and content front and center on your user’s home screen, serving as a constant reminder for users looking for a way to spend their idle time.
  • More responsive to user gestures compared to any web alternative.
  • Fast performance, which promotes continued use.
  • Push notifications, which help you bring people back to your content time and again.
  • Improved monetization, thanks to integration with mobile specific ad servers.I

If you want to do things the right way, once and for all, there is no better option than building a native app.

If you’re going for a custom app built by an agency, the cost will be substantial, as mentioned  above. But this isn’t your only option.

There’s a cheaper, easier method to consider that will enable you to increase engagement and grow your audience: building a native mobile app using a WordPress plugin (we’ve built one of those, at MobiLoud).

Converting your WordPress site into a mobile app will help you increase the reach of your website and continue to keep your readers them engaged.

With MobiLoud you get ready-to-use native apps for iOS and Android, your app will be built using your existing content and branding, which will be updated automatically, live from your site.

It doesn’t use RSS, but our own REST APIs, built on top of WordPress.

Our aim is to make the app building experience the simplest and quickest possible, while also making apps that are built with native technologies, responsive, engaging and beautiful to look at, indistinguishable from a custom designed app.

MobiLoud is an affordable native app publishing solution dedicated to WordPress, which offers plenty of customization opportunities even to advanced users, with support for custom fields, custom post types, custom taxonomies of every sort, on top of the standard posts, pages, categories and tags.

With MobiLoud you get features like push notifications, integration with mobile-specific ad networks like Admob and MoPub and the opportunity to edit and customise the app to include WordPress specific content like custom post types, custom fields and more.

Find out more about how MobiLoud can help you convert your WordPress site into an app on our website.

App strategy handbook coverWant 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 Handbook. Click here to download it for free.

Written by
Pietro Saccomani

Pietro is the founder of MobiLoud, where he helps site owners grow their audience on mobile with their own mobile apps.

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