Creating WordPress Mobile Compatibility
Hope you are having an awesome day!
I realize that my blog is not mobile friendly and since I am now serious about adding content and moving up the SEO ranks, I must become mobile compatible.
Can you offer any quick advice on the best wordpress plug-in in your experience? I value your knowledge in this area.
An Awesome Reader of Just Ask Kim
Thanks for the great question!
In order to talk mobile we have to understand a little about the technology of mobile first.
A mobile phone like iphone, ipad and high-end Androids actually have a fairly high-end browser on them and as long as one keeps their site not too cluttery (if your on thesis, not likely to be a problem) sometimes the main theme shows up just fine. I surf a LOT of blogs from my HTC Droid Incredible (high end Android, similar to iPhone) which has a fairly capable browser (I love the Dolphin Browser, though didn’t really care for their HD version.). The only time its frustrating is trying to comment (which I often skip) but which most wordpress mobile compatibility plugins for mobile will not solve. Mobile browsers have also gotten a LOT better over the last year and a half.
Plugins For WordPress Mobile Compatibility
One word of caution before we get started, almost every mobile plugin I’ve messed with has issues working with caching plugins.
For sites that the owners are not happy with their appearance/functionality on these high end phones there is WPtouch Pro “The professional version of WPtouch: a plugin to present your website with a mobile theme tailored for Apple iPhone / iPod touch, Google Android and other popular touch-based smartphones.” (Note: yes that’s my affiliate link, but no that’s not my quote, it came from their site.)
When a phone indicates to the site that it is being visited by a mobile browser, the site switches its display into this mobile-friendly theme. The Pro has a customizable mobile theme but there is nothing I would call user friendly about customizing it for a non-designer. The theme looks vaguely like “Flexx” theme and there is nothing wrong with it except that fitting with a mobile compatible theme it has zero bells and whistles built in for fast loading. There are other plugins but that one is the only one I’ve used (I still have it installed but it is disabled currently as I watch my analytics numbers carefully and weigh if its worth the loss of some of my site branding – or the cost of having a designer do a customization on it – to get my site a little more streamlined when thesis (and many premium themes with plenty of white-space) isn’t too bad by default.)
Harsh over at ShoutMeLoud.com has a post talking further about WPTouch Pro and providing some screenshots. However, either my phone does not recognize that the plugin is running or he has disabled it since writing that (likely given that SML is a high traffic blog and has to minimize plugin use.)
WordPress Mobile Pack
This plugin is fascinating both because its free and because unlike most it seems able to assist the blog on some of less-smart phones. This is unusual among this plugin class and worth having a look at. There’s a lot of features listed and its free to try out. However it’s worth noting at the moment that out of six reviews, two people have indicated it is not working for them. It would be very helpful if you test it out if you would review it and let us know in the little chart on the repository page whether or not this worked for you. Because this plugin is in the repository you should be able to easily install it from your Dashboard -> Plugins -> Plugin Search. I have been looking at lot at this plugin lately but at this time have not had a chance to test it out. On the repository page for the WordPress Mobile Pack there are some useful screenshots listed under the screenshot tab. However in a bind this plugin appears it would do the job.
Wapple Architect Mobile Plugin for WordPress
I don’t know much about the Wapple Architect Mobile Plugin plugin except to say that the screenshots are wow. This is a plugin I will be investigating a bunch in the future. The author of this plugin dropped into Kristi’s post. His indication that not only can visual brand identity be retained but that mobile SEO can be controlled definitely makes this a plugin worth checking out. Poking around their site it appears that their may be a pro version as well, but this particular version is in the wordpress repository and available for free. Given the visual emphasis I would say that this plugin works for the smartphones but not for the intermediary phones that have limited browser capability but that is strictly a guess. Looking at the stats its clear that this plugin is climbing in overall popularity but its not possible to compare it to the other two effectively. Also their are not enough reviews at this time to indicate the works/broke status of this plugin so be sure to review it on the wordpress.org/extend/plugins site!
WPTouch Pro vs WordPress Mobile Pack
I ended up purchasing WPtouch Pro originally because it had a stronger feature set than this plugin and I think that still stands. Kristi over at kikolani.com has a great review of WPTouch Pro vs WordPress Mobile Pack including a lot of screenshots. It’s definitely worth having a serious look at the Wapple plugin however as I’m a huge proponent of visual branding. WPBeginner has a setup guide for WPTouch Pro. (If you purchase WPTouch Pro, thank you in advance for using my affiliate link!)
Making Blog Video Mobile Compatible!
More important than even the mobile compatible theme when it comes to smart phone visitors is often the ability to access the videos that many of us use on blogs today. The use of the new “iframe” embed codes for Youtube when putting video into posts, can really help improve the odds that the mobile phone visiting your site can see your video! By default, most embed codes for video simply vanish on mobile devices, leaving a hole with no indication there is a missing video and it can be very confusing. The iframe embed codes, which are listed on youtube as in beta but I’ve been using for months and recommend, are capable of recognizing a number of mobile devices and making the video playable. Its not perfect but its a big improvement for mobile visitors (like me!). However, to use it on wordpress you either need a plugin or to copy/paste a snippet of code into your custom_functions.php file in thesis. I wrote about iframes last week and will be writing more about getting them to work with WordPress more in the future.
So What About Half-Wit Phones?
Okay … now we get into the nitty gritty… because when many people talk about WordPress mobile compatibility they aren’t talking about truly smart phones they’re talking about mobile phones that are “sorta” web-enabled. (Like some of the nokia’s and a lot of intermediary devices, and a lot of other very common phones that do not have as many bells and whistles as iphone and high end androids). Majority of the mobile plugins for wordpress can NOT easily affect the results on these phones.
To get your blog able to be viewed on THOSE phones, you generally need a copy of your blog routed through a mobile service such as mobify.me (basic service is free but it is branded etc). Not all phones are web enabled but the ones that are, without being a full-featured smart phone like the new high end ones, will require a service like this and can not be made mobile compatible purely by a plugin. I had this set up for a while and I left it. My visitors are either tech fluent enough to have true smart phones (and my blackberry visitors are not high), or my visitors are in areas that the phone-internet-service is very spotty and they tend to only visit me from the web.
For me, mobify was more than I wanted to maintain but if one is serious about going fully mobile compatible then a service like that is something to look at. Also, a copy of your blog running under hosted by someone else creates its own duplicate content SEO issues that must be addressed. (My mobify address which I had pointed to mobile.just-ask-kim.com had a bad habit of outranking my main page because its load times were awesome! That wasn’t so awesome for putting my main page where I wanted it though!)
A Sneak Peek?
If you really want to have a closer look at what your site looks like (although this does not tell you a lot about usability as some high end devices have pinch-zoom which helps A LOT and others don’t) you might try a service such as http://www.browsercam.com/ (I’ve never used them) that lets you look at your site from a lot of different browser angles including many mobile ones. They have a free trial that could be very useful. To look at what you get (or usually do NOT get, often blank) on some of the non-smart-phones theres a Sony/Nokia test for free over at http://mtld.mobi/emulator.php. There is an iphone emulator for free at http://www.testiphone.com/ however, because it does not have pinch-zoom (or even the ability to scroll) it honestly tells you very little except that your site loads/menu works/header image displays. I’ve not been at all impressed at blackberry’s web abilities and I think this is one reason blackberry is losing ground to iphone/android. However if I had a large client/reader base of blackberry users (like CEO/execs that had not yet switched) and that were the type that enjoyed going places on the web from the thing (that’s not a ton) I would need to be more concerned about blackberry and would likely want to put WPtouch Pro in place.
And if you’re a real diehard and want to have a serious look at your site (and client sites) on various browsers there is a collection of downloadable full fledged mobile emulators.
I Just Don’t Get How You Surf On That Thing!
Seriously, if you want to understand how these high end smart phones make the most of web pages, go to a cell phone store and play with a good iPhone and an HTC Droid Incredible or Motorola Droid, particularly playing with the touch screen and pinch-zoom (ask the store staff how to do this) and in a little time you’ll understand how these little phones can be so darn useful even without everyone having compatible themes.) Have some patience and actually play with the phones and you’ll come to see the flexibility that is available. (Be sure you also check out some youtube videos from a blog, so you can see how video embedding looks.) The Dolphin Browser does not come standard on the Androids but is free and easy to install and also improved my browsing experience. John Paul also shares his favorite list of Android applications here.
Summary of WordPress Mobile Compatibility
I hope this hopes shed some light on the issues surrounding making WordPress mobile compatible and what different options exist. A lot of understanding which approach is best for you is about understanding your audience and understanding how rapidly technology is improving.
Are you using a mobile plugin on your blog and if so which one and how do you like it? Do you visit blogs from your mobile phone and what do you bind works best/least in your experience?
I look forward to hearing YOUR experiences with mobile browsing! Thanks in advance for all the tweets, shares, stumbles, digs and onlywire bookmarks!
Your Partner in Online Success
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