Some interesting figures about mobile browsing and user activity:

  • 38 percent of web users in the U.S. access the web from their phone (or 89 million people).
  • 53 percent of Americans using their phones to go online do so at least once a day.
  • 65 percent of mobile users aged between 18-29 use their phones to go online.
  • 43 percent of mobile users aged between 30-49 use their phones to go online.

And these stats are just for American users. Across the globe, mobile browsing is continuing to grow at a huge rate and, as you can see from the image at the top of this post, it’s expected to overtake fixed (or desktop) browsing within the next 2-3 years, going by current trends.

Which begs the question – is your blog or website mobile-friendly? And if not, how do you make it more mobile-friendly?

Defining Mobile Friendly

Depending on who you ask, making a blog or site mobile-friendly is as simple as asking the question, “Can I view it when I open my phone’s browser?” (or tablet, as the likes of the iPad and Playbook continue to grow in popularity).

While this might help, it’s not really looking at the bigger picture, and the differing experiences of the various mobile browsers that are in use. Apple uses a different browser from Android uses a different browser from BlackBerry and so on. Then you also have older phones that don’t have the features of a smartphone, and this makes the experience even more different.

So to define mobile browsing, let’s work with the meaning of “compatible with as many mobile browsers as possible”. It might look better on some than on others but at least it’s available on more than just the latest smartphones.

So now that’s kinda cleared up, how do you make your site or blog mobile-friendly? It depends on the experience you want to offer and how much you want to spend (if anything).

The Build It Yourself Approach

The most intensive way to mobilize your site is to give it a full mobile makeover. This can be by yourself with some recoding, or by hiring a professional to do the work for you.

Depending on how much you want to make your site mobile-friendly and still interactive, the cost can run into several thousands of dollars.

Other ways you can bootstrap and make immediate changes include:

  • Use a fluid width design. This is a fairly straightforward approach and just involves modifying your CSS style sheet to allow your site to change widths depending on what browser it’s being viewed on. Make sure you make a back-up of your site and refer to any manuals before progressing with this option.
  • Centre your content. If you’re reading this blog on a desktop browser, you’ll see that the content is pretty centred, as opposed to being full-width and starting on the left. This means I don’t waste any content in the sidebars, and keep the main post area as the one that’s always front and centre.
  • Friendly Links. A lot of websites and blogs use contextual links, so when you hover over them a box opens up on-screen and shows you an ad or similar (think Kontera and Apture). Great for desktop browsers, not so much for mobile. Consider making all your links simple and mobile-friendly too.
  • Easy and Complete Navigation. When you’re on a site and you can’t find what you’re looking for, then it’s either a choice of searching (if it has that option) or simply leaving (never a good scenario). For mobile browsers, it can be even harder to implement a search option for such limited space. So make sure you have a clear, uncluttered navigation option, and have the most important pages you want your visitor to view upfront and centre.
  • Brevity is King. Depending on what browser a mobile user comes in on, the load time of a page filled with content can be nasty, and put them off. Counter this and have a short, punchy page each time – the easier the experience (including load), the more likely a repeat visit.

The Plug-In Approach

While the most comprehensive way to mobilize your site is by in-depth optimization, like I say this can be pretty expensive (though definitely worth it for larger sites). For blogs, though, it can be less expensive, because generally most blogs only worry about the post content, and not other sales pages, etc. This means you can choose a simpler option, and there are a ton of these available. Note – these are for self-hosted WordPress blogs – there are options for Blogger and other platforms.

  • WPtouch Pro. Probably my favourite out of all the mobile plug-ins for WordPress, WPtouch Pro offers a great-looking and customizable app that supports all the major mobile browsers. You can even add less popular browsers through the excellent WPtouch Pro documentation. There is a free version – but it’s definitely worth investing in one of the premium licenses. I use WPtouch Pro on this site – if you have an iPhone, iPad, Android or similar, check it out. You have the choice to switch between mobile and desktop view.
  • Wapple. Wapple is another excellent option, and one that I’ve used previously on this blog. It’s hugely in-depth and really lets you set up the mobile version of your site to replicate a lot of the desktop version. Again, it offers a free trial, but it’s the premium options that stand out. I prefer the simpler approach of WPtouch Pro, but Wapple would be my next choice for sure.
  • WordPress Mobile Edition. Built by the guys that developed the popular Carrington framework, the WordPress Mobile Edition automatically detects what browser is on your site, and offers a straightforward user experience based on simplicity. It’s probably the least “graphic” of the three plug-ins here, but its ease-of-use and simple set-up make it one to check out. Oh, and it’s completely free!

So these are the two main ways to make sure your site and/or blog is mobile-friendly. Some are more in-depth and expensive than others – your needs will determine how much you need to spend.

But with mobile browsing become more popular by the day, it’s a small cost to pay compared to losing readers and customers, no?

Note: A version of this post originally appeared on For Bloggers By Bloggers, the free blogger resource centre from Bonsai Interactive. It’s reproduced here to give you an idea of the daily tips on offer to help you grow your blog. If you enjoyed the read, feel free to drop on over and check us out.

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69 comments
jgpmolloy
jgpmolloy

@marketingwizdom Hey Robert. Not keen on this. Apple created a browser for view the web as a PC. Then everyone changed the web for mobile.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Jay, YOU're not friendly to anyone. The blog is just a victim. ;-)

Jay Dolan
Jay Dolan

My blog can't help that I'm a terrible person.

Jay Dolan
Jay Dolan

My blog can't help that I'm a terrible person.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

Jay, YOU're not friendly to anyone. The blog is just a victim. ;-)

Jay Dolan
Jay Dolan

My blog isn't friendly to anyone.

Jay Dolan
Jay Dolan

My blog isn't friendly to anyone.

Ari Herzog
Ari Herzog

WPTouch Pro, indeed. It's been powering my media blog for the past few months once I decided to upgrade from the free version. The past 30 days saw 41 mobile visits but I expect that number to climb. I'm guessing a fair number are by me, too, though, out of pure vanity.

Ari Herzog
Ari Herzog

WPTouch Pro, indeed. It's been powering my media blog for the past few months once I decided to upgrade from the free version. The past 30 days saw 41 mobile visits but I expect that number to climb. I'm guessing a fair number are by me, too, though, out of pure vanity.

David
David

Hello

My name is David, I am a Community Manager at Kontera.

I saw your article and found int very interesting. I wanted to share with you some recent news about Kontera and our groundbreaking mobild layer.

Kontera actually has a mobile layer, and we’re the first In-Text provider to do so. We offer two products – Relevant Ads, which are optimized for Apple and Android devices and Related Information, an entirely new offering, that displays contextually relevant articles from other sites that use Kontera. Neither takes up any additional space on your mobile site, and the Kontera layer is only displayed after the user taps over the single underlined phrase, wanting to learn more.

No further implementation is necessary, unless Kontera Publishers have a mobile only site, in which case you just have to implement your existing Kontera tag. Users on Android and Apple iOS devices are automatically seeing our Mobile layer on sites using Kontera.

You can learn more about our Mobile offerings here: http://blog.kontera.com/2010/12/09/kontera-goes-mobile/

Feel free to email me with any questions at davids@kontera.com

Thanks
David Stein
Kontera Community Manager
davids@kontera.com
Monetize your site with Kontera In-Text ads

David
David

Hello My name is David, I am a Community Manager at Kontera. I saw your article and found int very interesting. I wanted to share with you some recent news about Kontera and our groundbreaking mobild layer. Kontera actually has a mobile layer, and we’re the first In-Text provider to do so. We offer two products – Relevant Ads, which are optimized for Apple and Android devices and Related Information, an entirely new offering, that displays contextually relevant articles from other sites that use Kontera. Neither takes up any additional space on your mobile site, and the Kontera layer is only displayed after the user taps over the single underlined phrase, wanting to learn more. No further implementation is necessary, unless Kontera Publishers have a mobile only site, in which case you just have to implement your existing Kontera tag. Users on Android and Apple iOS devices are automatically seeing our Mobile layer on sites using Kontera. You can learn more about our Mobile offerings here: http://blog.kontera.com/2010/12/09/kontera-goes-mobile/ Feel free to email me with any questions at davids@kontera.com Thanks David Stein Kontera Community Manager davids@kontera.com Monetize your site with Kontera In-Text ads

Emily Leary
Emily Leary

Thanks Danny, this is really useful. I have 'Choose and implement a WP mobile plugin' on my list of things to do for a couple of blogs I look after this week. Always nice to start Googling and end up getting the best advice from a familiar face ;) Based on your recommendation, may well opt for WPtouch Pro.

Emily Leary
Emily Leary

Thanks Danny, this is really useful. I have 'Choose and implement a WP mobile plugin' on my list of things to do for a couple of blogs I look after this week. Always nice to start Googling and end up getting the best advice from a familiar face ;) Based on your recommendation, may well opt for WPtouch Pro.

Elephant's Eye
Elephant's Eye

From the blogspot, out of America in South Africa, perspective - I use the mobile template Blogger/blogspot recently offered us. It varies week by week, but about 10% of my readers are not using a desktop or a laptop. It has gone from 5 to 10% before and after adding the template.

Diana of EE

Elephant's Eye
Elephant's Eye

From the blogspot, out of America in South Africa, perspective - I use the mobile template Blogger/blogspot recently offered us. It varies week by week, but about 10% of my readers are not using a desktop or a laptop. It has gone from 5 to 10% before and after adding the template. Diana of EE

Debra Ellis
Debra Ellis

Hi Danny,

MobilePress is another plugin for WordPress that works well. You can customize it for different handheld devices if you are so inclined. The installation was simple and quick. Now my mobile version makes the web version look slow.

Debra Ellis
Debra Ellis

Hi Danny, MobilePress is another plugin for WordPress that works well. You can customize it for different handheld devices if you are so inclined. The installation was simple and quick. Now my mobile version makes the web version look slow.

Howie at Sky Pulse Media
Howie at Sky Pulse Media

Our phones are not that great for reading with their small screen. But they work. And you should be mobile formatted because when I click a link from hootsuite for a blog post if it isn't formatted and the web browser makes me enlarge it I leave.

In fact when Apple IPhone spots shows people making the screen zoom in and out to me that is a failure of the device vs auto formatting. If I have to zoom...I'm gone.

Howie at Sky Pulse Media
Howie at Sky Pulse Media

Our phones are not that great for reading with their small screen. But they work. And you should be mobile formatted because when I click a link from hootsuite for a blog post if it isn't formatted and the web browser makes me enlarge it I leave. In fact when Apple IPhone spots shows people making the screen zoom in and out to me that is a failure of the device vs auto formatting. If I have to zoom...I'm gone.

Adam Toporek
Adam Toporek

Excellent tips. I've kept "make blog mobile friendly" pretty close to the bottom of the To Do list for awhile now. But that trend graph is powerful stuff. For better or worse, mobile is the future.

I am going to check this site out on mobile later, and look into WP Touch Pro. Questions about WP Touch: What are we talking about as far as setup time? How big a project is it to get it all going?

Great stuff. Thanks!

Adam Toporek
Adam Toporek

Excellent tips. I've kept "make blog mobile friendly" pretty close to the bottom of the To Do list for awhile now. But that trend graph is powerful stuff. For better or worse, mobile is the future. I am going to check this site out on mobile later, and look into WP Touch Pro. Questions about WP Touch: What are we talking about as far as setup time? How big a project is it to get it all going? Great stuff. Thanks!

Gee Ranasinha
Gee Ranasinha

Nice post, Danny.

In my opinion a better way of dealing with displaying content on mobile devices is to use an (inevitably HTML5 / CSS3-based) infrastructure/theme that dynamically sizes to the client device - Smartphone, tablet, PC or whatever. This is surely the future of CMS-based websites.

I've seen a few WordPress templates out there that claim to offer just that - it's just a shame that all the ones that I've seen so far look awful ;-)

Another point to mention is with regards animation. Make sure that any animated content is device-independent. That basically means taking out any Flash-based objects, since iOS devices (which, together, make up the majority of mobile devices accessing the internet) don't natively support it. Better still would be to drop animations altogether.

I tried playing around with various WordPress plug-ins, but none of them really gave me the flexibility that I was after. In the end I created a custom, mobile-optimized version of my site (http://mobile.kexino.com). The "auto-diversion" to the mobile-optimized site when a mobile device is sensed is currently being updated.

Gee Ranasinha
Gee Ranasinha

Nice post, Danny.

In my opinion a better way of dealing with displaying content on mobile devices is to use an (inevitably HTML5 / CSS3-based) infrastructure/theme that dynamically sizes to the client device - Smartphone, tablet, PC or whatever. This is surely the future of CMS-based websites.

I've seen a few WordPress templates out there that claim to offer just that - it's just a shame that all the ones that I've seen so far look awful ;-)

Another point to mention is with regards animation. Make sure that any animated content is device-independent. That basically means taking out any Flash-based objects, since iOS devices (which, together, make up the majority of mobile devices accessing the internet) don't natively support it. Better still would be to drop animations altogether.

I tried playing around with various WordPress plug-ins, but none of them really gave me the flexibility that I was after. In the end I created a custom, mobile-optimized version of my site (http://mobile.kexino.com). The "auto-diversion" to the mobile-optimized site when a mobile device is sensed is currently being updated.

Gee Ranasinha
Gee Ranasinha

Nice post, Danny. In my opinion a better way of dealing with displaying content on mobile devices is to use an (inevitably HTML5 / CSS3-based) infrastructure/theme that dynamically sizes to the client device - Smartphone, tablet, PC or whatever. This is surely the future of CMS-based websites. I've seen a few WordPress templates out there that claim to offer just that - it's just a shame that all the ones that I've seen so far look awful ;-) Another point to mention is with regards animation. Make sure that any animated content is device-independent. That basically means taking out any Flash-based objects, since iOS devices (which, together, make up the majority of mobile devices accessing the internet) don't natively support it. Better still would be to drop animations altogether. I tried playing around with various WordPress plug-ins, but none of them really gave me the flexibility that I was after. In the end I created a custom, mobile-optimized version of my site (http://mobile.kexino.com). The "auto-diversion" to the mobile-optimized site when a mobile device is sensed is currently being updated.

Ann Marie van den Hurk
Ann Marie van den Hurk

With smart phones outselling standard headsets, it should be a no brainer to embrace mobile browsing. There's where the people are.

I use the free version of WPTouch, but may upgrade to the pro version.

Danny
Danny

Hey there Emily,

Glad it helped, miss (wait, should I call you missus now?? ;-)) - hope you find WPtouch Pro useful. :)

Danny
Danny

Hey there Emily, Glad it helped, miss (wait, should I call you missus now?? ;-)) - hope you find WPtouch Pro useful. :)

Danny
Danny

Interesting increase, Diana - so it looks like your readers definitely wanted a mobile option, then. Kudos to Google for offering the easy option.

Danny
Danny

Interesting increase, Diana - so it looks like your readers definitely wanted a mobile option, then. Kudos to Google for offering the easy option.

Danny
Danny

Cool, thanks for the tip, Debra, and just goes to show, with all the options available, there's no real reason not to be mobile-friendly. :)

Danny
Danny

Cool, thanks for the tip, Debra, and just goes to show, with all the options available, there's no real reason not to be mobile-friendly. :)

Danny
Danny

Completely agree, mate - like you say, if zoom is involved (especially a lot), that's not really user-friendly.

And we all know how much we like things to be friendly to us... ;-)

Danny
Danny

Completely agree, mate - like you say, if zoom is involved (especially a lot), that's not really user-friendly. And we all know how much we like things to be friendly to us... ;-)

Ari Herzog
Ari Herzog

The future? Depending on your visitor statistics, the future may be yesterday.

Danny
Danny

Hey there Adam,

It took me about 10 minutes to go through the admin and set everything up, and refresh my handset to see the results.

In other words, mate, if I can do it... ;-)

Ari Herzog
Ari Herzog

The future? Depending on your visitor statistics, the future may be yesterday.

Danny
Danny

Hey there Adam, It took me about 10 minutes to go through the admin and set everything up, and refresh my handset to see the results. In other words, mate, if I can do it... ;-)

Danny
Danny

Hey there Gee,

Thanks for the extra points, and the tip about your product, I'll be sure to check it out. :)

Danny
Danny

Hey there Gee, Thanks for the extra points, and the tip about your product, I'll be sure to check it out. :)

Danny
Danny

The extra features are well worth the admission cost, miss! :)

jgpmolloy
jgpmolloy

@marketingwizdom specifically the split between mobile web and web. Inevitable but short sighted. Especially with move towards larger scrns

marketingwizdom
marketingwizdom

@jgpmolloy I never use Twitter on the web or Twitter's own mobile applications. Once Tweetbot arrived there was no going back.

marketingwizdom
marketingwizdom

@jgpmolloy I do all of my Twitter viewing using Tweetbot on Mac and in iPhone. I save all links to Pocket for later viewing. It works well.

jgpmolloy
jgpmolloy

@marketingwizdom OK. For one. I use twitter for interesting links but on a desktop mostly links to mobile site which is irritating…

marketingwizdom
marketingwizdom

@jgpmolloy I'm still not clear what's bugging you. Responsive designs deliver an I compromised full screen experience & a decent mobile one

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