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Your Guide to Responsive Web Design for WordPress

Written by Nox Dineen-Porter on
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Odds are that more than half of your website’s traffic comes from mobile devices. Are you using responsive web design for WordPress?

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in building a website is designing and building for only desktop browsers. We get it. We’ve all been guilty of that before. Most of us don’t build websites on our phones. We build them from our preferred setup, whether on a laptop in front of the TV or in an office with two giant side-by-side monitors.

But building for desktop and treating mobile as an afterthought alienates most of your website visitors. You wouldn’t run a fast food restaurant where the majority of your customers were in the drive-thru and spend all your time waiting on people in the dining room. More than half of your revenue will come from the drive-thru, so you need to optimize your operations there while also serving dine-in customers.

This post shows how and why your website must work for people on all screen sizes. You’ll also learn the best ways to incorporate responsive web design for WordPress websites.

Why Responsive Web Design is Critical

You know the frustration of working with tiny objects like trying to pinch open a necklace clasp or putting shoes on a Barbie? That’s what it’s like for mobile visitors when your website isn’t responsive.

When your website doesn’t adapt to the size of the screen, visitors are more likely to encounter difficulties. Responsive design is a way of building websites so that the design and layout adapts to the size of the users’ screens.

Problems with non-responsive website designs include:

  • Buttons and site navigations are too small to click
  • Text is too small to read
  • Images, tables, or other content is too wide for the screen and getting cut off

Website visitors might have overlooked these challenges at one time. But now people expect your site to work flawlessly on their phones. If your site isn’t mobile-friendly, visitors will leave and find a competitor’s site that works on their phones.

Customers aren’t the only ones who will penalize you for lack of mobile optimization. Search engines also regularly check sites for mobile friendliness. They’ll penalize your site with lower search rankings if it isn’t designed to work on small screens.

How to Check Your Site’s Mobile Friendliness

Google takes mobile friendliness so seriously that they made a special tool you can use to test your site.

Here’s how to check your site for mobile friendliness:

  1. Go to https://search.google.com/test/mobile-friendly
  2. Enter your website domain
  3. Click test URL
  4. Wait for your results. It could take a couple of minutes.
  5. View your report. If the tool finds errors, it will list what you should fix to make your site mobile-friendly.

How to Implement Responsive Web Design for WordPress

Utilizing a responsive web design for your WordPress website is simple. You can either pick a responsive theme or modify your existing theme or design to be responsive.

Picking a Responsive Theme

If you’re picking a modern theme that’s regularly updated, odds are it’s a responsive theme. Theme developers won’t waste time creating non-responsive themes. They know most WordPress users want a theme that works across screen sizes.

When you’re previewing themes, don’t just look at them on a desktop. Use your phone or a simulator to see what it looks like on a mobile device.

Modifying Your Existing Theme or Design

You can modify a non-responsive theme or design by adjusting the CSS for the theme. This tutorial from W3Schools is a great place to learn how to write your own CSS to implement a responsive web design.

If you use custom CSS, read this post on how to retain custom CSS when updating your theme.

Considerations of Responsive Design in WordPress

Whether you pick a responsive theme or code your own, be on the lookout for things that could make your website unfriendly on mobile devices.

Check Your Plugins

Plugins can modify the design or layout of your website. When you use a new plugin to add features to your site, test them on small screens. Don’t let your plugin options undo your theme’s responsiveness.

Be Careful With Pop-Ups

Pop-ups can be an issue on mobile devices. Anyone searching for a recipe online can attest to the problems they cause. As you’re scrolling through a rambling story not remotely related to the recipe, a pop-up window encourages you to subscribe to a newsletter or download a cookbook. The problem is the pop-up window is larger than your mobile screen, and you can’t see the close option. Don’t be that person. Disable large pop-ups on smaller screens to maintain mobile friendliness.

Watch Out for Menu Lengths

Many themes are responsive by default, but that doesn’t mean all desktop designs easily translate into mobile responsive sites. Navigation menus can create multiple issues. If your menu is incredibly long with multiple levels, it can be cumbersome to use in a mobile drop-down. Consider using a slimmed-down version of your navigation for mobile devices.

How Host Quality Impacts Mobile Friendliness

Beyond your responsive web design, your site speed plays an important role in what mobile visitors think of your website. When not connected to Wi-Fi, mobile browsers often deal with much slower internet connections. A slow-loading site with a slow internet connection is a recipe for disaster.

You can’t do much to fix slow internet connections and poor cell coverage, but you can ensure your site is as fast as possible. How quickly your site loads depends a lot on the quality of your web host. At Pressable, our servers were built by the same geniuses behind WordPress.com, WordPress VIP, and WooCommerce. We know WordPress inside and out and built the best and fastest servers for WordPress sites.

Sign up today and start experiencing the Pressable difference.

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Nox Dineen-Porter

Nox has been using WordPress on and off since it was originally released in 2003, first as a blogger and later as a software developer. Her work on the Pressable support team blends her interest in technology, culture, and communications with her love of solving puzzles. When she's not at her computer she enjoys hiking, running, yoga, and street photography.