How to Supercharge Your WordPress Site for Mobile

Date posted: September 15, 2017

mobile

By Nabeena Mali

Mobile technology has taken over the market at an explosive rate, which can only mean one thing: the number of blog posts about mobile technology has increased at pace. This post right is one such example. Now, ordinarily, a short essay with a title like this one has would open with an onslaught of statistics aimed at proving just how pervasive mobile is. You might be informed that there are an estimated 2 billion mobile web users in the world, a stat meant to underscore the importance of optimising your website for mobile. The post would then go on to point out that 61% of users don’t return to mobile sites they’ve had a bad experience with, with 40% ending up at a competitor’s site. Scary stuff, right? Then, the opening paragraph might conclude with an appeal aimed at WordPress users specifically, pointing out there are over 74.5 million sites built on the platform and that you, the reader, are probably one of them.

Good thing we don’t need to do any of that.

As a WordPress user, you’ve got a certain DIY mentality. You don’t need m explaining your problems to you. You built your website, and know you’ve got make it good for mobile. No, you need to make it great for mobile. You’ve already searched the issue and ended up here looking for ways to get the mobile-most out of WordPress. So I’ll just get right to it then, starting with the basics and working up to more advanced technologies.

Beginner

Responsive Design

Asking if your website was designed responsively is the mobile equivalent of “Did you try turning it off and back on again?” Responsive web design means, simply, that your website will respond to the user’s device and screen size, laying itself out accordingly. It saves you from having to create different pages for different devices. It’s the first thing you look at, because it’s one of the easiest things you can do. With WordPress, making your website responsive is a matter of selecting the right theme: read the description and it’ll tell you if it’s responsive.

Jetpack

If you’re using a theme that isn’t responsive, and you really don’t want to switch up your website, you can install the Jetpack plugin. Jetpack does quite a number of useful things for WordPress admins, one of which is the ability to set up a mobile theme. This can run concurrently with your existing one, because it only displays on mobile devices.

Optimise Your Images

It’s the Catch-22 of the mobile world: users love visual content, but they hate to wait for visual content. It’s still a regular practice for people to upload super high resolution images on their website, and then let the browser size it down from there to fit the screen. The problem is, those large files are LARGE FILES that take time to download. Even if it’s displaying at a smaller size, that resize doesn’t happen till after the image is transferred to your user’s device. A good, quick way to see if you can save yourself space (and your users download time) is try Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool. It will crawl your site and report back any images that are too large and could be compressed.

Intermediate

W3 Total Cache Plugin

This is pretty much the go-to plugin for WordPress admins looking to improve site performance. Without getting too technical, W3 Total Cache optimises your WordPress site, setting up caches and “minifying” certain things, and promising 10x improvement in performance when it’s fully configured. The bonus here is that all the site tweaks aimed at improving the user experience can also improve your ranking on Google. The search engine rewards sites that deliver a good user experience, and as of this year they place greater value on mobile sites.

WP-Optimize Plugin

Every WordPress site sits on top of a database, which needs to be organised in order to function at peak. Over time, data is retrieved, altered, moved, or deleted, and these actions do leave fragments behind which can clutter things up—actual bits ad bytes of information that have no more business being there. There is also the matter of the metadata—the data about the data—which changes every time data is accessed. Installing the WP-Optimize plugin cleans all that up, and then regularly keeps it clean according to your schedule.

Advanced

Progressive Web Apps

If you’ve done everything listed above, your site should be looking pretty good and running smoothly. If you want to take it even further, though, you can look into creating a Progressive Web App. These are essentially apps that run inside the web browser, but look like they are their own entity.

The appeal of these is easy to understand: people refer to websites for quick information, but they spend their time with apps. That’s because apps offer a more personal, interactive experience—perfectly suited for e-commerce or even just customer relationship management. Building a PWA for WordPress is much more complex than anything listed here, but the payoff can be well worth the time spent: you’ll end up with an icon on your customers’ home screens, which they can tap and head right to your app (read: website).

Of course, you don’t have to spend time deep diving into the world of PWAs if your mobile strategy has brought you this far. Building an app from one of our templates is much more intuitive than reading through all the documentation on the PWA framework. Besides, you spent all that time optimising your website for mobile: why bog it down?

Nabeena Mali is the head of marketing at AppInstitute a DIY app builder for small businesses and passionate about sharing her knowledge and insights on design strategy, UI/UX trends and driving digital growth through content marketing.

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