How To Make A Mobile Website

Updated on 04-Dec-2012

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This WordPress tip is about making sure your site works for mobile users. A confession: I’ve only just started looking at what we should be doing with our own sites, and this article is the result of my own investigations.

Why Do We Need Mobile Versions of Our Websites?

Technically, we don’t. Smartphones and smart devices can mostly handle the same sites that we have running in standard WordPress. It’s just that viewed on an iPhone, some of the navigation can be very, very small and also, some individual features may not work properly.

The idea behind a mobile version of your site is that you provide something easy for your customers to use when they are away from their desks or killing time in an airport lounge somewhere.

The Best Solution

I think the best solution will always be that you get a specific version of your site hand coded by someone who knows what they are doing. The cost of this may be prohibitive though, not to mention the overhead of having to run two separate versions of the same site, so what can we do to get mobile for low cost and quickly?

What Type of Business Do You Have?

If you are in the information business, and you write a lot of content, you will want to have a mobile site that allows people to read your content when they are on planes, trains or waiting in lines. This means you’ll need your WordPress category content to stream into the mobile site and be in easy reach of the home page.

However if your business is mainly offline and local, you’ll probably be more interested in supplying location, phone and pricing information on your mobile site for the people in your area.

You Are Using WordPress, Right?

If you are here reading this, you almost certainly run one or more WordPress websites. With WordPress you can use services or plugins that make the job of creating a mobile version of your site relatively simple.

Free Online Service Onbile.Com

Onbile is really very cheap and cheerful. It is free and takes around 10 to 20 mins to set up. But it is very limited. It can certainly operate as a stop gap until to get something better sorted out.

WPTouch Free and WP Touch Pro WordPress Plugins

In this video I tried out both WpTouch and WPTouchPro. The great thing about this WordPress plugin is that it takes your existing site and makes a mobile site out of it. You will have to tweak it a bit, and PRO makes that task easier, but 90% of the work is done. I have installed WPTouchPro on DevonWebDesigners.com and will be spending some time over the next few weeks to get it finely tuned.

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This article was updated on December 4, 2012

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth is an experienced web developer and WordPress SEO Coach. Connect with her on Google+ and Twitter

Comments

  1. Thank you – I know this is something I need to address – and this is very helpful. I will work on this in the next few days and let you know how I get on!
    Penny Ritson recently posted..Under £30 Weekly Meal Plan 1My Profile

    • OK Penny – Let me know – your stuff is very pertinent as it can be served to people on iPhones in the supermarket as they shop. So your mobile home page should have a very prominent search function – so someone can just type in “mushrooms” and come up with all your recipes with mushrooms. Then they go shop for whatever you say the ingredients are.

      Liz
      Elizabeth recently posted..Using Transparency With CaptionPixMy Profile

  2. Thanks for the info. I definitely want to try the WordPress mobile site generator. Currently I have a separtate .mobi site, but it is very limited in appearance and pages. Also, it is difficult to drive mobile traffic to the .mobi site because I can’t get the rankings up as high as my .com site for mobile searchers to see it.
    Nyla Crystal recently posted..Wedding Entertainment: A Belly Dance Show for Conservative GuestsMy Profile

    • Hey Nyla – You bring up a very good point. Mostly due to the way Google (the company works) and also to do with the nature of new technology, the message is unclear about what we should be doing. From the research I’ve done, despite the advice from Matt Cutts (of Google) to make our mobile site a subdomain at m.youdomain.com (ie a separate site), the best advice is I think to do it as described in the videos with something like WPTouch if you can afford it.

      The reason is because we hear the word mobile and we get confused. Most of us are interested in smartphone traffic, not all mobile traffic. Smartphones and devices are perfectly able to deal with 90% of what a normal site shows. I mean look at my home page with all that slideshow stuff going on. I can see that perfectly on my iPhone. Trouble is, I can’t click any links as they are too small.

      So what we are wanting are not mobile site per se, but mobile-friendly sites. It is a subtle difference. We want our current sites re-arranged to have some of the pretty decorations removed, and the buttons made bigger and the pages people on the move are most likely to be interested in, at the front all served from the same domain.

      If we serve a different version of the site in terms of it’s look and feel to smart devices and phones, it’s served from the same URL as the desktop version, just formatted more simply. This means we get the same SEO for the mobile friendly sites as we do for the desktop sites. Its the same site. So the worry about having to rank on another domain goes away. You just concentrate on doing the ranking on your WordPress main site, and the rest takes care of itself.

      • Hi Liz,

        nice article. To your point about Google and feedback, they do have a mobile site where people can see how their site appears. It’s at http://www.howtogomo.com.

        It allows you to put in your URL and answer some questions. The emphasis is also on sites that are more transitional in nature like eCommerce rather than informational. From there, they generate a report with info and tips. Not as thorough as you could be, but still a nice free resource.
        Anne H recently posted..Fitbit Ultra Sets A Good PaceMy Profile

        • Good point Anne – I did see it but it was before I’d installed WPTouch Pro and then I never went back to it. It works wells. I can see my two enormous buttons on my DWD mobile homepage. Ream!

  3. Thanks a bunch! So far so good on the free version of Touch. Also I want to congratulate you on the quality of content! Thank you very much!
    From Sunny Miami Florida! :)

  4. Hey Liz,

    What can I say, more great info. I am so glad that you are showing
    the world that you are a WP authority.

    The time you are taking and the information you are giving is great.
    I have a list of about 1000 marketers that work with offline businesses
    that I want to send an email to about your tips. Do you have a subscriber
    page? Because I don’t see any optin on these tips pages.

    I had no idea that Safari had that dev option!

    My dog snores also, he is an old Schnoodle, he is sleeping
    right next to me in my office as I type this. What’s kind of
    dog do you have?

    Thanks again,
    Blase
    Blase recently posted..Small Business – Hiring and FiringMy Profile

    • Hi Blase – I will contact you about this. I am about (probably tomorrow) to change a few things here and move my email software from Aweber to Infusionsoft for this particular list. I will let you know when that is done and then I’d love for you to tell your people about the tips. Thank you very much.

    • Regarding the dogs? Three Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. They all snore. Very happy to hear that yours does too. I can’t throw them out of the office – they would break the door down.

  5. Liz,
    Yet another very detailed explanation of some great tools both free and paid.

    Most small to mid sized businesses do not have the time, skills or staff available to manage and optimize multiple versions of our site, so using a plugin such as either of these gives even the smallest business or site owner the ability to deliver the best version of our site based on the device its being accessed from.

    Your tutorials make it easy for anyone to understand why they should create a mobile version and then how to do so quickly and easily.

    I especially appreciated the tip about the backup import feature in WPtouchPro that’s a great tip to point out!

    Thanks again,
    Debra
    Debra Lloyd recently posted..How To Buy An Online BusinessMy Profile

  6. I tried onbile and fund it quite difficult to get to grips with (may be it’s just me) but I have now installed WPtouch – free version – and it works instantly! I am sure there is much more I can do, but at least it is basically up and running now. Thank you, as always, for your great recommendations
    Penny Ritson recently posted..Bread And Butter PuddingMy Profile

    • Hi Penny
      Onbile are a Spanish company – they wrote to me a couple of weeks ago and said that they were releasing a new version. So it could be that their new version is more involved than the one I demonstrated …? Anyway – I love WPTouch although the trend now is to have WordPress themes with so called responsive design. The idea is that the themes are simpler, and fluid and resize automatically for the likes of phone and iPads so that you don’t need a plugin. The latest Genesis themes are all responsive designs such as shown here in these demo

      - Eleven40
      - Generate
      - Balance

      If you visit each of the demo sites and resie your browser you’ll see that the theme is capable of narrowing meaningfully (i.e without screwing up). Responsive design is the alternative to creating separate mobile sites.

  7. Hi Liz,

    Good article! As a wordpress developer I was aware of WPTouch (and use it on my site too) but Onbile is new to me. I need to check that one out :)

    If you have time, check out my blog on the same subject (link below – I use CommentLuv too :)

    I think our approaches are very much in line, and as you mentioned in the comments above, responsive designs are a good option for a lot of new sites!

    Colman
    Colman Carpenter recently posted..Mobile Devices – Can Your Website Cope?My Profile

  8. The mobile website combined with a well-optimized local places page is probably one of the best things we’ve done for our business. There are a ton of plugins out there, but I found out the hard way that there are some shortcomings of each one. Instead, there are plenty of themes that are around $100 that not only makes a good looking website, but the site is automatically made mobile-friendly. I used elegant themes, but I have heard that themeforest is also a great place to find there.

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