There are a few ways in which you can handle mobile visitors. One way is to use a responsive design that uses the same HTML as your desktop design but changes the way the page is displayed using CSS. This method is favoured by search engines such as Google as it ensures there is only one URL per page.
An alternative method is to create a mobile app for your visitors. This allows you to customise the way your content is displayed to visitors, however it means that visitors are not viewing your content using the same URL as those on desktops.
Today I would like to talk about the WordPress plugin WPtouch. The plugin detects when mobile visitors are viewing a page and displays a stylish user-friendly mobile theme to them.
What surprises many people about WPtouch is that offers the same kind of interface that you would expect from a dedicated mobile application; however the plugin is simply displaying a custom theme to mobile visitors. It therefore offers the improved user experience more associated with dedicated mobile applications with the SEO benefits more associated with regular responsive designs.
The plugin also gives visitors the option of disabling WPtouch and viewing the desktop design of your website on their smartphone. This is a useful feature as many smartphones have screens that are 5 inches in diameter or larger, therefore visitors may prefer to view the normal design.
WPtouch works great right out of the box, however the plugin gives you a huge amount of control over how your mobile design. Let us take a look deeper into what the plugin can do.
The title of your mobile design will default to the title of your website, however it gives you the option of changing it. There is also a preview mode for administrators and a box for adding Google Analytics and other custom code.
The plugin lets you disable styling shortcodes when the mobile design is being used. This is useful if you are using any shortcodes that will not look good with the smaller dimensions of the mobile theme.
You can also disable WPtouch for specific URLs and define what devices WPtouch will be used on. The vast majority of user-agents are defined already including iOS devices, Android, Blackberry and webOS.
Themes & Extensions
WPtouch is free to download, however a premium version is available from $49. The free version comes packaged with a design called Bauhaus. Four additional designs are included with WPtouch Pro.
WPtouch Pro also provides three extensions that enhance the functionality of the plugin. This includes a caching module, a module that reduces the size of images for mobile users, and a module that lets you display specific content to mobile users.
Settings that are used on your main website, such as the number of blog posts being displayed, can be changed for your mobile design too. You can also choose whether categories, author details and comments are displayed.
The theme slider can display your latest blog posts, posts with a specific tag or posts from a specific category (e.g. news). You can also choose the exact posts and pages that should be displayed using the post and page ID.
Theme fonts and colours can easily be changed through the branding section. You can also upload your website logo, display social media links and create your own custom HTML footer.
WPtouch also lets you change the icons that are displayed to Android and iOS users when they bookmark your website.
The plugin utilizes the WordPress menu system. It is therefore easy to customise the top menu. All you have to do is create a new menu and then assign it in the settings area.
Icons can be associated with each menu item. All you need to do is drag and drop the icon you want to the corresponding menu item.
Twelve icon sets are included with the plugin. All sets are included with the free version of the plugin so you do not need to upgrade to change the icons being used. There is also an option to upload your own icons.
All the configuration options in the world would mean nothing if the mobile design was not good. Thankfully, that is not the case. As I mentioned at the start, the design has the look and feel that you would normally associate with dedicated mobile applications. The professional design looks great and content is easy to navigate.
Visitors can navigate to other posts and publish comments like they would on your desktop design.
WPtouch is one of my favourite WordPress plugins. It is by far the easiest and cheapest way to create a mobile friendly version of your website. This makes it a great choice for those of you who are not using a responsive theme already.
Even those of you who do have a responsive design may want to switch. The developers claim that their mobile design loads two to three times quicker than most responsive designs. I have not tested this myself, though it does make sense that a minimal design would be quicker to load.
The free version of the plugin has everything you need, however you may want to consider WPtouch Pro in order to take advantage of the extensions. In particular, the caching plugin looks like it could improve loading times considerably as it will reformat images in the fly to optimise it for different devices. The premium version of the plugin will also grant you access to a one of one ticketing support system.
I encourage you to give the free version of WPtouch a try first. If you like what it does, you can then review whether it is worthwhile upgrading.
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