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How To Make Your Blog Mobile Friendly with WPTouch

written by John Chow on August 28, 2014

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If you start bouncing around the Internet on a mobile device, it probably won’t take you more than a few minutes before you encounter a WordPress mobile website that’s powered by the popular WPtouch plugin for WordPress.

WPTouch is used by millions of end-users, and is also responsible for the mobile versions for many popular brands including Sony, Disney, PBS, CNN, and a host of others. To date it’s been downloaded nearly six million times from the WordPress repository, and is frequently in the top five most popular list for WordPress plugins.

How Does It Work?

If you haven’t heard of WPtouch before, I’ll explain what it is. It’s a plugin that you install and activate in WordPress that can selectively display a mobile-optimized theme for mobile users while allowing users on desktop and laptop machines to see your main theme. For most people, all it takes is a few clicks to have a mobile-friendly WordPress website that has similar branding (logo and colours) as their main site.

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There are two completely different philosophies with regards to how to build mobile sites. The first is that a website owner should take their desktop site and selectively scale it down for mobile users — this philosophy is known as ‘Responsive Design’. The second is that a mobile website should be designed from the ground up to properly address the needs of a website’s particular mobile users – WPtouch is in this category.

Why Responsive Design Sometimes Falls Short

While responsive design is a good solution some of the time, most people tend to agree that it’s not without a few serious drawbacks. First, a website’s user-interface is often compromised in order for the desktop website to be selectively whittled-down to the mobile version via CSS – instead of providing an optimal user experience for both desktop and mobile users, often a responsively-designed website will do neither. WPtouch Pro was designed with only the mobile experience in mind, so no compromises needed to be made.

Second, most responsive designs simply use the same image assets for both desktop users as well as mobile users, leading to an excessively slow mobile experience. Even if a particular responsive theme includes smaller image assets for mobile devices, the dynamic nature of WordPress itself leads to large images within posts and pages being used on mobile devices, which increases page load times and degrades the user experience. WPtouch Pro addresses this problem via its Responsive Images extension – all images, even those embedded in WordPress post content, are dynamically scaled so that each device receives the optimally-sized image based on the end-user’s device dimensions. In addition, WPtouch Pro doesn’t include any large images in its themes – almost all assets are vector-based, so they render ideally on all mobile devices, even ones with retina displays.

Advertising on responsive websites can often be problematic as well since the advertising code is usually duplicated on the desktop and mobile versions of the website. While Google has been experimenting with responsive advertising units, most other advertising services haven’t. As a result, the ad unit will often be too large on mobile or too small on the desktop, leading to a decrease in potential advertising revenue. Using WPtouch Pro and the Multi-Ads extension, a website owner can decouple their desktop and mobile revenue sources and optimize them both independently – up to five different mobile-friendly advertising units can be included on any particular mobile page, completely independent from whatever advertising units are being used on the desktop site.

What Else Is Included In WPtouch Pro?

WPtouch Pro comes with four themes that cover several different popular market segments, as well as a few themes available at higher pricing tiers. Bauhaus: an easily brandable theme for most personal and small business websites. CMS, designed for businesses and content-heavy sites. Classic Redux: which includes a responsive tablet theme. Prose: meant for writers and text-heavy websites. Simple: for people who value simplicity over complexity. And Open: a location-aware theme designed from scratch for retail outlets.

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Branding is trivial with WPtouch Pro, as most themes give you access to advanced font typography (via Google Fonts), link and accent colours, and typically the ability to upload your own logo. Not sure what colours you are using? No problem – WPtouch Pro will auto-discover them from your desktop theme.

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In addition, one of the most popular WPtouch Pro features is Web-App mode, which allows your website to be saved to the home screen on iOS devices and launched like a typical application in a windowless-browser. Simply enable Web-App Mode in WPtouch Pro and upload the icons you would like to use. Mobile visitors on iOS devices who visit your site will then be prompted to save your site to the home screen. Once saved, they can launch the website at any time and view it in full-screen like a native application.

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Each license also comes with one-year of professional support, ongoing product updates (typically released monthly), and access to a detailed knowledge-base to help end-users get the most out of their website.

How Much Does It Cost?

WPtouch Pro is available at four different pricing levels, starting at $49/year. Each level includes different features, extensions, themes, and additional sites that the product can be activated on. At the Small Business ($99/year) level, the Multi-ads extension is included as well as the ability to activate the product on up to five different WordPress sites. If you want the Responsive Images extension and the ability to use the product on up to 30 sites, look to the Agency license ($199/year).

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If you don’t have a mobile friendly website or haven’t been happy with your responsive site, then WPtouch Pro may very well be a better solution for you. Its lightweight themes, ability to rescale images on the fly, and fine-grained control over mobile-specific advertising-units make it an attractive, affordable solution for WordPress website owners looking for a mobile website.

If you like WPtouch Pro, you can help spread the word while earning a commission through the affiliate program. It pays out a 25% commission, which amounts to upwards of $87 a sale at the Enterprise level.

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