Unless you have been living under a rock, you must be aware that mobile takes up much of today’s web traffic. In fact, the number of mobile users has been outnumbering desktop users since 2014. The same goes for Google searches. How can we WordPress sites more attractive for mobile visitors?

Perhaps it’s just a feeling of mine, but whenever I’m editing in WordPress it is the desktop experience that is on my mind rather than the mobile one – I have grown more aware of catering to mobile devices, but I still feel that I’m not nearly paying enough attention. The lack of attention is also visible on this website, and served as a prompt for me to research deeper into it.

Responsive Web Design

Any web designer should have this on top of their minds these days: it is absolutely no longer a trend or anything like that. If you don’t have a responsive website you’re missing out. I even felt reluctant to include it in this post as it is so obvious. To me however, there’s a big gap between creating a basic responsive design and truly catering to the mobile crowd. We still have a lot to learn in that area. Mind you, I’m not making the argument for dedicated mobile sites, responsiveness is definetely the way to go: A lot of web designers need to get out of the ‘mwah looks good, no bugs’ mindset and make sure that the experience has a similar ‘feel’ to that on the desktop.

Some people will suggest building an app. To me, that’s only necessary if you have a site or a product that you expect users to very regularly engage with. If you run a website for a small or medium-sized business (or B2B) I would simply not do it – there is no need to put a barrier in front of people in this case.

mobile design website wireframe sketch on digital tablet screen
Looks nice, but in order to cater to mobile you need to go a step further than ‘stack all the elements on top of each other’

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)

A very interesting project is the Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) project from Google.  AMP aims to be a standard where, thanks to a reduction of technologies, responsive sites on mobile will load much faster than before.

We’ve all seen it before: we try to access a mobile and it just takes forever to load. Fortunately, this implementation is also starting to become available on WordPress. A couple of weeks ago, Automattic released an AMP plugin that makes it easy to enable this standard on your website. The project is still in an early stage though, and the AMP pages are not automatically served to users of mobile devices. Instead, it depends on Google or other search engines to redirect users to the appropriate version of the site.

The gains of implementing this, however, are big, pretty big actually. AMP pages are reported to load four times faster on smartphones, and this will go a long way in improving your SEO rankings. After all, it’s tougher to rank well on mobile, as the space available for search results is that much more limited.

Facebook Instant Articles

Similarly to Google’s AMP project, Facebook has been working on its Instant Articles feature. The projects share similar priorities: speeding up content for smartphone users.  With Instant articles, you are basically directly publishing on Facebook. The feature is more reserved in contrast to AMP – You need to submit your website and it has to adhere to certain requirements to make use of the feature.

Instant articles is expected to go live more broadly soon. Already, tools like Medium have announced the possibility to publishing instant articles through them, provided that the content adheres to Facebook’s policies. The feature set is expected to expand as well. At the end of March, it was announced that Instant Articles now supports video ads. 

Understand that Mobile users are different

Last but not least, I would like to point out that mobile users are different from desktop users. As early as 2012, a study from Google identified the different purposes: desktops are used for finding information and keeping yourself up to date. This productivity focus stands in contrast with what users typically do on mobile: they use it primarily for communication and entertainment purposes. Tablets are known to be used for about two-thirds of the time for entertaiment purpoeses. It is therefore essential that you understand the visitors that are using their mobile devices to access your website.

Use the analytics that are available to you to test out different ways of engaging mobile visitors
Use the analytics that are available to you to test out different ways of engaging mobile visitors

As you can see, even something as simple as installing a plugin can help you get more visitors on mobile. At Fermin Creative, we’re currently tracking the mobile use of the website very carefullly, and we have seen the amount of visitors increase. We will have another follow-up post in a couple of weeks to discuss our own findings in more detail.

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