Are You (and Your WordPress Blog) Ready to Go Mobile?

Should you go mobile with your blog?

[This post is part of the Ultimate Guide to Launching a WordPress-Powered Blog series.]

One of the questions that I’ve gotten a lot is whether or not I recommend having your blog be mobile-friendly – that is, adjusting your blog to know when someone is viewing it on a mobile device (Android, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry, etc) and altering the design and features for an optimized viewing experience.

My most simple answer is this: I believe that you should always seek to give your readers the easiest and most natural viewing experience possible!

But, I also believe that you need to make as informed a decision on how you go about doing that without sacrificing your overall experience that you’re trying to communicate besides the content.

This is the key thing to remember always: A mobile version of your blog always changes your viewers experience. Your goal is to make sure it’s such a positive increase that it’s worth it.

For some bloggers I completely recommend not providing a mobile-only experience since their design is an intimate part of the content experience. For others the impact is significantly less and it doesn’t matter if they did or did not have a mobile-optimized version.

So, for your edification I’ve collected some of the more well-known and better systems for your perusal and research, but before that here are some key things that you’ll want to consider as you do your research (and you definitely should):

10 Key Considerations That You Can’t Ignore:

  1. Plugin “Footprint” – Does the plugin, itself, cost a lot of performance for your blog to use? Some services can tax your system more than actually create enough benefit offset.
  2. Plugin/Service Requirements – What does your blog and/or your hosting provider need to be able to run this optimally? Are you capable of running/managing the service optimally?
  3. Blog Optimization – Is your current blog optimized enough (or not enough) to simply provide a cohesive and effective user experience already?
  4. Design – Does this service and/or plugin offer design customization? How limited or open is it?
  5. Branding – How much 3rd party branding is there? Is it littered with advertisements for the company that built the system?
  6. Engagement – How does the service handle engagement, specifically comments and pingbacks?
  7. Sharing – Does this service offer native sharing capabilities for continued traffic expansion? Do you lose this with your mobile plugin?
  8. Device Versatility – How many devices does this impact? Is it only for a certain type of handset/device or is more of a global “catch” for “most” devices?
  9. Community – How will this impact your community? Will they appreciate it? Will they reject it? Do they even need it, really?
  10. Research – Have you confidently researched all your options? What are your knowledge gaps?

You see, ultimately you’re going to want to ask yourself the serious question of whether or not you truly need it. Many people blindly believe that we live in a “mobile world” and thus you absolutely need a mobile-ready blog to be competitive or “up to date”. I categorically deny this idea because many top tier blogs have done their research both technologically and from a community perspective and opted not to do it.

I know even for myself that I’ve opted not to use one (at this time) until I either find the best one for my particular needs (there isn’t one out there… yet) or when I find enough time to build one myself.

Don’t just do it because you heard someone else has done it – there’s a strong possibility that they didn’t put much thought behind it either.

The (Growing) List of Mobile Services and Plugins for WordPress:

Here is a list of well-known and well-worn and used services and plugins that have found popularity among many bloggers.

Please note that this list is not comprehensive since there are about literally tons of services that I personally think just suck and I’ve decided to save you some time by vetting these for you.

I will admit that I’ve opted to list them in order of most-used and most attractive to me but don’t forget to do your research!

  1. WordPress Mobile Edition – Hasn’t been updated in a while but still kicks massive booty.
  2. MobilePress – One of the best free choices out there.
  3. WPTouch Free – This one’s just as good as MobilePress. In fact, they are pretty much tied in my book. I mean, nearly 2,000,000 downloads isn’t too shabby.
  4. OnSwipe – A new player that’s still in BETA but that’s been supported directly by WordPress themselves. Keep your eye on this one.
  5. Mobify – The “big boys” use this and it’s awesome. It’s free for smaller sites but it scales into a pricing model if you get serious. And if you’re at that point anyway then you can probably afford it.
  6. WPtouch Pro – They say it’s completely re-written of the free version above with new features but for most people you may not want to drop the green to sport it. It’s still a very good choice for those that want to invest a little.
  7. WordPress Mobile Pack – The customization options are awesome on this one. For designers/developers who want to add their own touch of awesome.
  8. BAAP Mobile Version – Almost a carbon-copy of WordPress Mobile Pack above but apparently more updated.
  9. WordPress PDA and iPhone – An ok alternative that I’ve seen used well.
  10. Mobilize – This one’s been around for a bit and although it hasn’t been updated I’ve used it for a few clients. It’s on the bottom though.

Of course, let me know if I’m missing any (or if any are deprecated – plugins “die” all the time).

A few other mobile-related plugins and apps that you should know about:

  1. WordPress for iOS
  2. WordPress for Windows Phone 7
  3. WordPress for Android
  4. WordPress for BlackBerry
  5. WordPress for Nokia
  6. Mobile Admin – If you don’t like the WordPress Mobile Apps listed above you could always use this plugin to help manage your blog from a mobile device.
  7. W3C MobileOk Checker – A great service that tests the level of your blog’s mobile-readiness. You should pretty much fail this test if you don’t have a mobile plugin or service running. Not a bad thing though if you’ve determined not to use one!
  8. WordPress Multi Site Mobile Edition – This plugin hasn’t been updated in a while so I’d tread with caution here but it apparently still works for many users. Could be a good place of comparison if you need to make your Multi-User platform mobile.

So that’s that! Love to hear your thoughts and experiences using some of these and if you think I’m missing one!

Let’s hear it!

[This post is part of the Ultimate Guide to Launching a WordPress-Powered Blog series.]

  • http://www.chriswiegman.com ChrisWiegman

    Good article. You’re the first I’ve seen mention so many alternatives.

    I’ve converted numerous sites to mobile and on WordPress wp-touch gets my vote. It’s the easiest and most bullet-proof of solutions I’ve found (and I’ve used almost all of the ones on your list). If you’re at all serious the paid version is a must.

    Another point I’ll emphasize is that nearly every blogger can benefit from a mobile version of their site. So much content is mobile these days that not doing so can affect a rather large amount of readers.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      chris,

      that’s a good perspective but I think it’s limited. I could easily install one of these but I haven’t. I’ve optimized this site from a non-mobile perspective as much as someone humanly could, from software to hardware and architecture… and it runs pretty nicely on mobile.

      i don’t feel like i’m losing out on readers or affecting my growth at all.

      • http://gbrenna.com Graham

        And… John, I’m coming to this site at a time during the day when I want to sit down and read something about blogging… Your content really isn’t a must read when I’m on the go. I like to sit down at my MacBook Pro or iPad to read it. I don’t need to read it on my phone while I’m running errands.

        What I guess I mean is that content type effects how many mobile visitors you’re going to have.

    • http://dustinstout.com Dustin W. Stout

      Yeah, I beg to differ. I think mono ike version could only harm your reader interaction. In fact, I will not even give time to most mobile versions of WordPress blogs because it’s just plain ugly and the user experience is never quite smooth. As an avid blog reader and a graphic designer, I prefer to see the site in it’s normal state.

  • http://www.hiphopdistribution.com/blog Mario Mendoza

    Nice points. I recently just removed my Wp-Touch plugin because I liked how it looked without the mobile version. I added the plugin before because I followed the hype of being mobile ready. With future design plans in mind, I hope it adds to the user experience and better branding. I definitely will consider using it on a per project basis, but the proof lies in testing it out and making sure navigating around your site is as easy as possible. I do like the point you brought up about engagement, thanks for the heads up.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      love this thought process mario. thanks for sharing!

    • http://gbrenna.com Graham

      I might be removing WP Touch Pro from my site in the near future too. I’ve developed a “look” on my blog that I really like and I don’t want people to miss out on it.

  • Ashley Pichea

    I appreciate it when blogs are able to be viewed in a mobile setting (saves me from squinting so much), so when I moved to WP, I automatically added a plugin to make my blog mobile-friendly. What I *don’t* like about the mobile-friendliness is that I lose all the sidebar content where my advertisers and such are, as well as additional plugins that draw more pageviews.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      yes! advertisers lose out on this… and, your users do too.

      • http://amethystwebsitedesign.com Marcy

        That’s what I see too, Ashley and John. The mobile plugins remove the parts that are deemed “less important.” If the info really is less important, then it shouldn’t be on the blog in the first place. For instance, John, you’ve put a lot of thought into the Standard theme and how you use it on this site (quite well!). You want to have it all available for readers. It’s a matter of reorganizing it, not completely changing it.

        This is a great topic; thanks, john!

    • http://wvpv.me wvpv

      Some mobile themes will moves the sidebar content down below the body content.. Smooci does that.

  • http://dustinstout.com Dustin W. Stout

    I am pretty dead-set against mobile versions. I have YET to see anything in which I enjoyed the UX. A few of my favorite bloggers who use mobile versions (Michael Hyatt, Tyler Stanton to name a couple) have mobile versions of their blog, and I HATE them! In fact, I won’t even attempt to go to a site on a mobile device if I know it has one of those formats.

    In my humble, and unresearched opinion, I don’t think a mobile site is worth the trouble if you can merely optimize your current site to look good in a mobile browser. Standard Theme looks, works, and feels great on mobile browsers! Switching to a mobile theme just ruins it.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      ;) thanks for that dustin.

      we’re certainly looking into creating our own mobile version… stay tuned… it’s going to be sick.

      • http://dustinstout.com Dustin W. Stout

        It better be John, cause after that Tigers Blood you drank, there’s no excuse not to be awesome! #winning!

        • http://john.do John Saddington

          ;) haha.

  • http://amethystwebsitedesign.com Marcy

    I’m just starting to look at mobile, and was going to tryout OnSwipe first, but that may change after reading this post and comments.

    I’ve been working on a project to make a WP site responsive (fluid) down to mobile because it’s for mom’s who are on the go, and many of them are getting smart phones now. I showed what I had so far to my design-student daughter, and we had a great conversation about other tweaks to make it a better experience for handhelds.

    BTW my daughter prefers to have nearly the same experience and look on the handheld as she has for the desktop site. And she wants access to “all” the site info, not just a stripped down mobile site. If the site has a secondary, stripped site, she wants a quick method to get to the main site, and for it to stay there, and not bounce back to the mobile version. She mostly uses an iTouch for mobile, so the iPad experience may be different. and she doesn’t like Facebook mobile, but she does like Wikipedia mobile. LOL!

    I’m really looking forward to reading what others have to say on this.

    • Ashley Pichea

      I definitely have a difference of opinion between my iPhone and my iPad… on my iPhone, I prefer the mobile site as it makes the blog MUCH easier to read, whereas on my iPad, I prefer a full site.

      • http://john.do John Saddington

        i like and appreciate this differentiation.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      marcy,

      great thoughts here! i agree with your daughter… i’m looking for the way back to the original look!

  • Eric J

    What about just putting css media queries into your blog theme (standard) that might be a good compromise for performance while keeping your look?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      you could definitely do that. most lack the technical ability to do that though… :) we’re looking into making this easy.

  • http://wvpv.me wvpv

    Any thoughts on Smooci (http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/smooci-2)? I use it with a mobile theme switcher (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/mobile-smart) on my blog.

    Seems more friendly than WPTouch.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      surprised you don’t use http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/smooci-wordpress-on-mobiles/ instead of mobile-smart…!

      this is a bit more complex (not too complex though) and involved than most are willing to get into. great combo though… love it!

      • http://wvpv.me wvpv

        Mobile Smart adds a switcher link to go back and forth between the mobile and full themes.

      • http://wvpv.me wvpv

        I’m kinda surprised there aren’t any mobile themes that leverage jQuery Mobile (http://jquerymobile.com/) for UI.

  • http://bryanalla.in bryan a

    I was really excited about OnSwipe…and then I put it on my blog and tried to pull it up on Safari. No dice. Deactivated every other plugin just to make sure something wasn’t playing nice, but still didn’t work. It loaded pages and individual posts just fine, but couldn’t bring up my “front page”.

    I love the idea, they just need to work out the kinks (this the Beta, right).

    great list, John.

    • http://bryanalla.in bryan a

      i meant to specify that i was trying to view my blog on my iPad 2. Obviously that is what OnSwipe is there for.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      there were definitely some kinks in it.. i think they’ve updated it… i believe… not sure though.

  • http://www.geekforhim.com Matthew Snider

    Thanks for the list man. Was discussing with my business partner on this last night. Great timing and great post!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      biz partner!

  • Dana Searcy

    Thanks for the list! I was just getting the hang of blogging. I guess this world is constantly changing!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      it is… so your challenge is to find what works for you and stay put! ;)

  • http://calumhenderson.com Calum Henderson

    I must admit that I find mobile versions of sites annoying when they’re used for tablets as well. Tablets have a big enough screen that they don’t need a different experience. So any mobile theme that activates on tablets is a no go for me.

    On the whole I find mobile sites a bit redundant as many smartphones these days have good enough browsers to handle full versions of sites.

    Just my two cents.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      calum,

      i agree. some would argue speed is the biggest factor but i’ve found a lot of the plugins to be quite slow.

  • Joseph Waldrop

    I currently use WP Touch. I’ve never really put that much thought in to the mobile side of my blog though. I do think it makes it easier to read the content. But I think the overall experience is better on the actual web page. I have also downloaded the WordPress app for my Android. I’ve made some minor edit’s to some of my posts from it and also wrote a couple short posts from it. It works ok.

    Great post John as this will now make me think about the mobile version of my blog. It’s something I need to look at soon.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      cool beans! most people just install one and let it be… i’m not sure this is the most strategic!

      • Joseph Waldrop

        Ok. Thanks for the recommendation. I’m probably going to dump WP Touch.

  • http://www.graphicdesignboss.com GraphicDesignBoss

    I used WP touch and bingo! I got myself a mobile compliant blog.

    Very useful and easy plugin to install for someone with no coding experience.

    The only downer is my lack of ability to brand it.

    My major commment would be to see how many mobile users you have in your analytics. This will help you make some decisions at the pace of which you should adopt mobile.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      there are a few that give you more flexibility out of the gate in terms of design…. but you could always theme the plugin.

  • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

    I use MobilePress and it works great!

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      sweet!

  • http://gbrenna.com Graham

    I’ve been using WPTouch Pro for some time now. I honestly forgot it was running on my blog. It brings out the content, which is nice. But I do really like the look of the theme (Standard Theme) and all the customizations I’ve done to it.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      wah wah! ;) thanks graham!

  • http://jesusgeek.info John

    I used to have mobile-friendly versions of my site as well. I used different plug-ins based upon the needs of the site.

    Standard Theme looks great on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 7 devices. It scales well and I don’t really see a need to have a mobile-only version of my sites using this theme.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      thanks john! we’re looking into making it even better…..!

  • Jonathan Woodward

    I use WordPress for Android. AND I just recently did a post about mobile blogging also! Ha! Why you copying???

    lol, just kidding.

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      oh, snap. let me see…

  • http://www.thesusan.com Susan

    I admit to being somewhat of a Luddite here. I installed WP Mobile edition and the attendant mobile theme. Got all sorts of error messages on both. Deleted and went to the second on your list, Mobile Press. It looks good, but my menu bar isn’t visible, so the mobile surfer couldn’t navigate beyond my “about” page. :|

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      doh! that stinks!

  • http://www.shyjumathew.com/blog Mathew

    John, i just visited ur blog from my iPhone and ur share and tweet buttons that is on ur right is not seen on that. Is that ok with u? Is that same view from ur side or is it jus on my screen?

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      i’m aware of this and i’ll need to see if we can get that fixed…!

  • John

    Thanks for the recommendation. You missed out a mobile web startup that is gaining alot of traction recently. I have mobilized a few of my businesses with them. Morces -> http://www.morces.com

    Received a slight increase in call-ins for reservations for a few of my cafes. :)

    • http://john.do John Saddington

      cool. :)