How to Optimise Blogs for Mobile with WordPress

Responsive design

I came across an article earlier today by Kevan Lee who caught my eye with the opening: “I spend my days writing content from my desktop computer for people who will read the content on their smartphones and tablets.”

This is of course also true for myself and it got me to thinking how site layouts have changed to address the mobile age. Many more sites are now responsive but some are still hobbling along, forcing users to pinch, scroll and zoom in order to see the text properly and effectively click on links.

Choose Your Blogging Platform Carefully

Probably the easiest way to address a blog that displays badly on mobile is to separate it out from the rest of the site. This isn’t a perfect solution as the purpose of a blog is to market the company a lot of the time and if the rest of the site is not mobile ready, then you’ll probably still lose out.

However, not every business can afford to have a complete site revamp carried out, so instead have a WordPress installation built on a subdomain.

What’s a Subdomain?

This is a separate part of the site and the URL will often look something like this: http://blog.xen.wpengine.com. As you can see, it’s still part of the overall domain, but you will be able to install WordPress, find a responsive theme that’s optimised for mobile and adjust to suit your site’s style, logos, colours and so on.

Why Choose WordPress?

There’s a reason that WordPress is the most popular blogging platform in the world and that’s because it’s easy to use and there are a host of themes and plugins that you can add to it to ensure that it’s unique and does what you want it to.

There’s plugins such as Yoast SEO that makes optimisation for search a complete doddle, for example. You can even get spelling, grammar and readability checkers that go through your post and alert you to any errors or improvements that can be made. You can get further plugins for:

  • Polls and ratings
  • Security
  • Contact forms
  • Social sharing
  • Twitter feed
  • Image lightboxes, galleries and sliders
  • Chat systems

And much, much more. There are a huge amount of plugins available and the quality of them varies wildly, so ensure that you carry out some research and don’t just install everything you see. Plugins can cause conflicts within WordPress and cause the site to stop working properly, so check how everything is working after you install each one.

When things go wrong it can be an incredible pain to have to disable one plugin at a time to figure out an issue, so ensure that you choose and install carefully, reading reviews and checking star ratings beforedhand.

Choosing a Theme

WordPress hosts 1000s of free and premium themes that you can use to customise your site. Free themes are often adequate for many people and if you do have any coding skills then you can further customise these by altering the HTML and PHP, as well as the CSS. However, if you don’t have these skills, then most themes are extremely easy to use and have a simple drag and drop interface. You can choose themes based on colour, number of sidebars, menus and so on, just browse through them in the ‘Appearance’ section of your WordPress installation.

It’s often worth paying for a premium theme as these tend to give you a lot more in the way of customisable options. Premium themes range in price from as little as around $30 up to around $80. When shopping for a premium theme, have a look at the demo to see how it works in ‘real life’ and ensure that it’s responsive and mobile friendly.

It’s also a good idea to check out forums to see what people are saying about theme developers. The majority of themes have decent support, should you run into any trouble, but some will have been abandoned so ensure that support is offered before installation.

Difference Between WordPress.com and Hosted WordPress

Those new to WordPress often confuse WordPress.com, which is the free blogging platform, with hosted. The latter is installed onto a server that you pay a monthly hosting fee for and is much more powerful than the free platform. Most hosting companies now allow one-click installs of the blogging software and this doesn’t require any real technical knowledge, although you should have an understanding of how websites work.

The free platform is quite good for anyone looking for a standalone blog, but it’s not really up to the standard that you expect from a commercial website. That’s not to say it’s not a great resource, it is, it just lacks features that you can get with a hosted WordPress installation.

For example, with the free platform, your options are quite limited when it comes to the themes you can choose and you can’t install plugins at all. Since plugins are an incredibly powerful aspect of the software, it’s something that you really can’t do without. WordPress.com is also limited when it comes to analytics as whilst it does provides its own, these are very basic. With a hosted installation however, you can connect the site to Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools so that you can easily track traffic and adjust strategies.

Formatting for Mobile

Once you have your blog installed, check that you’re happy with text size on mobile by testing on real devices. Test on as many differently sized screens as possible and include tablets. Once you’ve done this and you’re happy that the blog resizes nicely, button links are easy to click, and text is legible, then it’s time to write your first post.

You should follow the same rules as you would for the web when writing a post for mobile:

  • Keep sentences and paragraphs short – the latter should be no more than around 6-8 lines deep
  • Use sub-headers with H2, H3 etc.
  • Ensure there is clear white space between paragraphs
  • Break up with images and bullet points

Once you’ve written your first post, then again check it on various devices to ensure that it’s readable and you’re ready to hit publish.

All sites need a blog these days; we’re consuming more and more content as we access it on numerous devices. A blog is a great way to let the world know how much you know about your industry and it’s a good driver of traffic to the rest of your site. It’s also a good way to feed your social media presence and even if you can’t afford to have the rest of your site overhauled at present, it allows visitors to know you’re there, and hopefully come back to the main site on a desktop.

Kerry Butters

A prolific technology writer, Kerry was an authority in her field and produced content for a variety of high profile sites in her niche. Also a published author, she adored the written word and all things tech and internet related. Sadly she passed away in February 2016 after a valiant battle with cancer.

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