I’ve been doing some much needed structural work, shoring up the support beams here at the Hypertransitory Towers of Doom, and I decided to take a closer look at how my site displays on mobile devices. It was functional, but I thought I would make a few adjustments. If you haven’t paid close attention to your website’s mobile appearance you might want to do the same.
MOBILE THEME PLUGINS
As this site is run on WordPress, a while back I decided to install the WPTouch plugin and see how that worked.
Frankly it looked pretty good right off the bat, and so I pretty much left it alone for all this time.
I should say I’m using the free version, but there’s an updated pro version out which costs about $50 (U.S.) for a single site license. I don’t think that’s too bad, but the free version was doing pretty much what I wanted anyway so I didn’t bother upgrading.
The page I linked to has a comparison chart of what you get with the free vs. paid options of WPTouch.
I’ll get back to some modifications I made to WPTouch at the bottom. I’d like to continue on with some of the other options right now.
I saw someone recommend MobilePress just recently on a forum.
However, when I went to the link it said the plugin hadn’t been updated for two years. That’s way too long for my tastes. Especially since I clicked on the developers website listed at the link above and it just redirected back to the WordPress plugin repository page.
I wouldn’t use this, but it might work for someone else so I’ll provide the link. I’m not sure what it takes for something to be de-listed from the WordPress plugin archive. Maybe as long as it doesn’t completely tank anyone’s website they just display the warning at the top and leave it be?
Mobile Joomla was the first mobile plugin of any kind I ever used. I was at a local Joomla meeting where the developers were teleconferenced in and they did a good job of going over all the features.
I tried it out right after that, and I found that I still had to do some digging and customizing to get the templates working right for the Android devices. It worked great on iPhone but those Android templates were kind of hit or miss.
Now this was over a year ago, so there may have been significant advances on that front since then.
Shortly after first trying out Mobile Joomla, I installed WPTouch. It worked pretty much flawlessly at that point so I gave it the edge.
Mobile Joomla is free, there is no paid version upgrade as is the case with WPTouch.
While I was searching around, I came across a couple of web-mobilizing services. A big one is Mobify.
The only this is, I couldn’t find the price of this service. I could only find the much-dreaded “call us for a quote”.
What this means is that the price is so steep they don’t want to scare you away immediately, so they’d like to get you on the phone so one of their specialists can talk you down when you flip out after you hear the full price.
I’m always reminded of the old (but true) saying when it comes to price: “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”
To be fair, it looks like this service is for Fortune 500 companies and big players in the game, not some punk with delusions of grandeur, a blog and his big ol’ head in the logo.
So if you have the cash, you might want to check that out and see what they have to offer.
Taking a look at them, they look like a similar service to Mobify, except they specifically say they’re “WordPress Friendly”. I take that to mean that if you’re using Joomla or Drupal you’re out of luck, but I could be wrong about that.
Looks like they have a free version where you can only mobilize 10 pages, plus they’ll run ads and put their link in the footer. The first pay tier comes in a $9 (U.S.) as of this writing, with unlimited pages and an ads-free site. Plus they’ll apparently set up a mobile subdomain for you, too.
I think if you have a WordPress site you could just as easily run WPTouch, pay $50 up front and it would be good enough, unless you need some specific functionality that isn’t offered.
MOBILE THEME vs. MOBILE SUBDOMAIN
Using a mobile theme vs. using a mobile subdomain is something I really never thought of until I stumbled across several debates on the pros and cons of each option.
Essentially WPTouch and MobileJoomla are giving you a mobile theme, meaning when a mobile user gets to your site, they see the same pages, just presented differently (via css usually). (I did notice that MobileJoomla does also work with a subdomain -I didn’t see that WPTouch does that even in the pro version).
If you have a mobile subdomain, when a mobile user gets to your site and their user agent (browser) reports itself to the server as being a mobile version, then the server redirects them to the separate subdomain where your mobile site is hosted.
Usually this will be something like “m.example.com” or “mobile.example.com”. Here’s a link to the mobile version of the Six Revisions web development blog: http://m.sixrevisions.com/.
So if I went to www.sixrevisions.com with my iPhone, it would automatically be redirected to m.sixrevisions.com.
What this means is that you have 2 versions of your site. Some developers obviously have plans and methods to easily maintain this sort of setup, but not me.
While I don’t have a mobile subdomain for this site, I don’t think it’s a big loss. If anyone has any good reasons for using a mobile subdomain, please leave it in the comments, it could be useful info for myself and others.
With that said, here’s a few links to some interesting articles for WordPress users where the writers come in on the side of mobile themes. Although if you read the comments the feeling is not always completely mutual:
Some mention that if a user sees your site on their phone and they share the mobile subdomain link, then everyone else who shares your mobile link will be providing juice to the mobile site and not the main site.
Then some say that maintaining 2 sites causes detrimental SEO issues link diluting your link juice.
I didn’t consider the SEO options and potential social media gaffes at all, but I wonder how much of a factor these thing truly are?
Oh yeah, if you needed a mobile subdomain instead of a theme, I saw this WordPress plugin called Mobile Domain recommended in a couple of places.
Essentially you create your subdomain first (usually at your registrar or your host if they’re controlling that for you), then you just tell the plugin what that subdomain is, and when it detects a mobile device it will just shunt that request over to the subdomain.
Of course, this is mostly for people who want to have complete control over what is showing at that mobiel address and therefore don’t want plugins, so you’d have to make sure your mobiel site is ready to go in that spot.
WEB APP vs. NATIVE APP
Here’s another debate in the mobile space. Will your site use a web app or a native mobile app?
Aaargh. Remember the good old days:
Our business needs a website!
Our website needs a blog area!
Our blog needs to be mobile!
and then even that isn’t enough because…
Our mobile site needs to be an app!!
Gaaah. Essentially, your mobile site is considered to be a web app. People use mobile Safari, Firefox or Chrome to get to it. So you’ve got that covered with WPTouch and MobileJoomla.
A “Native App” is what you download from the App Store or the Android Marketplace. It has it’s own icon on your phone and the hope is that users will place it on their home screens.
Here’s a couple of good articles on web apps vs. native apps:
Looking closely, the WPTouch Pro version has the option to turn your site into an app. I assume this means it wraps up your site into an app framework of some kind? If anyone is using this feature let me know how this works.
I’m not really sure if this is worth it for my site, but for $50 it could be a quick cheap way to get in on the app craze, such as it is -assuming it does what I think it does, anyway.
So as I mentioned, I use the free version of WPTouch for this website (version 1.9).
It really just works for the most part, but there were a few things I did want to tweak a little.
If you go in the options, you can choose a custom favicon for your site. So if people are used to seeing my favicon on the main site, I want them to see the same icon if they come to my site from a mobile device.
You can also choose thumbnail icons for your menu items. I think the free version will only use your pages and categories, and doesn’t actually use your WordPress menu, so be prepared for that.
When I looked closely at my site as shown with WPTouch, I saw some old pages listed that I removed from the menu, but didn’t turn off or delete so they were right there to be seen. Ooops.
So I cleaned that up really quickly. You don’t have to delete the pages or anything, you can just uncheck them in the WPTouch options.
You can also set the icons for individual pages, too. The plugin comes with default icons for many subjects (photos,archives, etc). I decided to spice up my icons a bit with some custom ones. You can upload custom icons right from the WPTouch settings page. Once you do this they become available to choose from the pull down menus.
WPTouch lists your categories, as well. However, it’s not quite as easy to turn off the ones you don’t want to show.
There’s a field at the top where you can put in the ID’s of any categories you want to exclude. Obviously you’ll have to know the ID of the category first though.
The way to find this is to click on a category as if you’re going to edit it. When you’re in the edit screen, the url in the address bar will contain the ID of the category. It will literally be “ID=9″ or something similar.
(I wish the developers would put those ID’s in the post and category columns, it could save a lot of time down the line.)
Anyway, so as you can see, pages and categories are listed. However, you can’t link directly to a blog post.
In my main menu, I have a few links directly to blog posts that I would like to be directly accessible from the menu.
I couldn’t do this with the default functionality of WPTouch, so I implemented a workaround.
To get around it, I created a blank page and made sure the page didn’t appear in my main site menu. Then I just redirected that page to the blog post I wanted. This way the page shows up in WPTouch and I can assign an icon like any other page. The user clicks on it and they get the blog post. Real simple like.
To create the redirect I just put it into a plugin I use anyway called Redirection.
It’s as easy as putting in the page url in the top field, then pasting in the blog url in the field below.
If you upgrade to the full pro version of WPTouch you will get access to all the WP menus, though. So that may be worth it to you to pony up the cash for it.
THE WRAP UP
So, in conclusion…well, there really isn’t one. You guys just do whatever you feel you need to, lol.
I’m just trying to provide some info here in case you have a site and you haven’t thought about a mobile solution, or you have thought about it but didn’t know what to do.
If you’ve got a content managed site like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal (I’m sure Drupal must have something similar) there’s really no reason not to get some mobile version of your site going today.
If you’ve got a static site well now’s the time to kill two birds with one stone, content manage your site and mobilize it all at once.
So with that said, I’m going to round-up all the links here for your convenience, and I’ll see you guys next time. Peace!
MOBILE THEME PLUGIN LINKS
MOBILIZE SERVICES LINKS
MOBILE THEME vs. MOBILE SUBDOMAIN LINKS
WEB APP vs. NATIVE APP LINKS
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