Before I let you know what stunned me about WordPress websites, let me provide a little background.
The 60 Second Marketer uses a customized approach for the back-end of our website. By that, I mean we use Freeway Pro to design many of the pages on the site, then we use WordPress as the platform for the blog portion of the site. This approach for our website has worked for us for quite some time.
When someone visits our website from a smartphone, they’re redirected to a mobile version of our site, which can be seen here. This is an adaptive version of our site (as opposed to a responsive version).
Adaptive versions of websites use sniffer code to re-direct smartphone visitors to pages designed specifically for smartphones. In other words, there’s a line of code at the head of the website that sniffs out whether someone is visiting from a desktop or a smartphone. If they’re visiting from a smartphone, they’re re-directed to a mobile page on website (often designated by an m. subdomain, as in m.60SecondMarketer.com).
(If you’re interested in using sniffer code to re-direct people to a mobile version of your site, you can read this blog post on the 60 Second Marketer blog).
Responsive versions of websites serve up web pages based on whether someone is visiting from a desktop, a tablet or a smartphone. In other words, they respond to the size of the screen the site is being viewed from and then change the layout based on that information. Most people use responsive designs for their websites, but there’s a fatal flaw if you’re using WordPress.
What’s the Big Problem with WordPress Responsive Themes?
The problem with WordPress responsive themes is that most of them simply re-package all of your content into one long, cumbersome mobile page. In other words, they take all of the existing content and simply lay it out vertically onto one super-long page. This means your mobile visitor, who is looking for short and specific information, is served up a big, clunky web page that gives them too much information. (Special shout out to Desiree Scales, CEO of Bella Web Design who helped clarify a few questions I had about this issue with WordPress themes.)
This approach ignores the fact that your mobile visitor doesn’t want a ton of copy. In fact, because they’re typically visiting your site when they’re at walking through a mall, at a coffee shop, at a stoplight or in a parking lot, they’re interested in just the essential information.
Here’s how I addressed this issue in Go Mobile, the book I co-authored with Jeanne Hopkins:
The first step to developing a mobile website is to get inside the mind of your customer. When you step outside yourself and go inside the mind of your customers, you begin to see things from their perspective.
Typically, given the medium, your mobile website will be more streamlined than your corporate website. People who will be visiting your mobile site are themselves mobile, and they have a very specific set of needs—none of which include the desire to read a lot of extraneous information. Thus, you can do without company press releases, employee bios, case studies, company philosophy, and photos of your employee holiday party.
So, in the end, most responsive WordPress themes don’t take context into consideration when they serve your website up to your visitors. In other words, they ignore the fact that most visitors don’t want a ton of information when they’re visiting your site from a smartphone. This is a fundamental flaw in the way WordPress themes currently work.
How Can You Solve This Significant Flaw?
Here are some steps you can take to adjust and fix this issue:
- Try to find a responsive WordPress theme that adjusts the amount of copy based on the size of the screen. So far, I haven’t been able to find a WordPress theme that does this, but maybe a member of our community knows of one. (If so, please make a comment below.)
- Alternatively, create an adaptive site by adding re-direct code: Ask your web designer to install a browser re-direct feature onto your website the way we’ve done with the 60 Second Marketer website. That’s a line of code that “sniffs” out whether your visitor is coming from a large regular browser or a smaller mobile browser. With a browser re-direct feature, your website will be able to re-direct mobile users to the pages on your website that were set up to be viewed in a mobile browser. (You’ll find the line of code to accomplish this by clicking here.)
- Redesign key pages: In most cases, you’ll want your mobile website to be a smaller version of your regular website. After all, visitors are typically looking for a few key pieces of information — directions to your store, information about your services, special offers, etc. In our case, we set up the 60 Second Marketer iPhone website with 6 key pages — Videos, Blog, About Us, Work with Us, Call Us and Speaking.
- Follow best practices: Here are three key tips to make your re-designed mobile web pages the best they can be: 1) Reduce the amount of content — mobile visitors want essential information about your products or services, not in-depth information, 2) Make it thumb-friendly — mobile visitors are often in a parking lot, a coffee shop or at a stop light, so keep navigation simple, 3) Take context into consideration — mobile visitors only want the key facts. Will your mobile visitors be looking for directions? For hours of operation? For a click-to-call button? Think this through as you re-design your mobile site.
In the end, if you’re a small business that handles its site in-house via WordPress, you may be stuck with this less-than-optimal WordPress responsive theme approach. If you’re a mid- to large-sized business, you’ll want to ask your agency or web design firm to fix this issue for you. After all, there’s no point in having a mobile website if it doesn’t take context into consideration.
Jamie Turner is the CEO of the 60 Second Marketer and 60 Second Communications, a marketing communications agency that works with national and international brands. He is the co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile” and is a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.