How mobile-friendly is your blog?

How mobile friendly is your blog?

© Daniel Foster, Texting, via Flickr

When I started this blog I was very keen it should be mobile-friendly, or, if you like, mobile responsive, so its contents displayed properly on a smartphone or tablet.

I took great pains to find a mobile responsive theme that I liked, even though I knew it probably wouldn't look as 'graceful' as my other blog. But sometimes you have to give up 'prettiness' for 'functionality'.

This is because I also knew that someday in the future this would be important. And lo and behold, Google is changing its algorithms on 21 April to place more emphasis on websites and blogs that are mobile-friendly.

Jargon alert! Algorithms are the mathematical programmes Google uses to help it place websites and blogs into its search lists. They are terribly techie, and way beyond my know-how, so its best to accept that they magically make the search engines more efficient (and not always to your advantage).

What is being mobile-friendly?

A mobile-friendly blog or website will adapt how it is seen on different sized screens. This also includes whether the screen is portrait or landscape, as both tablets and smartphones are able to change accordingly. A screen in portrait mode contains less space widthways, so less of the blog or website can be seen.

Now if a blog or website is 'static', or non-moving, everything would look the same as on a PC or laptop. This means all the content and layout is reduced to fit into the small screen, making the text very small, and the sidebar would either jam up against the main content area, or be partially lost, making it very difficult to see what it contains.

Whereas mobile-friendly blogs and website change to best fit in the screen size they are viewed on. Not only does the sidebar transfer itself to the bottom, giving the content area much more room and a proper reading size, but also elements such as images and buttons are moved around to create a better experience for the user.

Check this for yourself

Go to http://www.google.co.uk/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/ and type in your blog's URL in the field at the top. If your blog is mobile-friendly, you should get this notification:

Postive mobile-friendly test

And it shows you what your blog looks like underneath.

Beginner Bloggers on smartphone before plugin

But for me this isn't acceptable. Even though the content takes up 100% of the window of the device you are using, it initially shows only what's at the top. In this case it's my '10 concepts a beginner blogger should understand before starting a blog', which takes up all the screen so nothing else can be seen!

I then entered my Fairy Blog Mother blog details into Google Webmaster Tools Mobile-Friendly, and this is what I saw:

Smartphone mobile friendly for Fairy Blog Mother

I had forgotten I had added in a plugin earlier to make my last theme more mobile-friendly. It is called WPtouch Mobile plugin:

WPtouch Mobile Plugin

And it also allows you to determine which page is shown on a smartphone, and I had chosen the blog listings page rather than the front page:

Choosing the blog lists page as default

So I installed this plugin onto this blog and selected the blog listings page to show up, and now it looks like this on a smartphone:

Beginner Bloggers on a smartphone after plugin installed

Which I much prefer, as it shows far more information to my readers. I would much rather have them reading my blog posts than looking at my infographic offer, even though some people might say that is a good thing if I want to get more sign-ups!

But I can't use plugins

Ah yes, that's right, if you have a WordPress.com blog you won't be able to download the WPtouch Mobile plugin, but that doesn't matter. The themes that are available are all mobile-friendly, even those that are free of charge. There used to be a page in the Settings that was devoted to mobile use, but that has been taken away now because it is not needed any more.

And I think that Blogger also offers a feature in their Settings that make their blogs mobile-friendly.

And, of course, there are plenty of themes for WordPress.org blogs that have been specially designed to be mobile-friendly, but you probably will have to pay for them. And there's always the WPtouch Mobile plugin, and others like it, if you can't afford to pay for a theme.

Do a self-check

You can do a quick check yourself to see how your blog or website performs on a tablet.

If your theme is mobile-friendly, then it will shift and change as the browser screen gets smaller or narrower. Take hold of the bottom right hand corner of your browser window and drag it inwards to see what happens. My blog looks like this on my computer:

Blog seen on a full screen

Whereas if I reduce the browser window it changes to this:

Portrait view on a tablet screen

And the sidebars disappear from the right, and are replaced underneath the main text body. This is how it would look on a tablet in portrait position. And if you reduce it even further it becomes like this:

As seen on a smartphone screen

Which shows the displacement of contents that is peculiar to a mobile-friendly display.

If your blog or website doesn't do this, then it's not mobile-friendly.

Remind me why I should have a mobile-friendly blog or website

From the 21 April Google and the other search engines will give more emphasis on mobile-friendly blogs and websites and place them more prominently within their search listings.

This is because there is a big increase in the amount of people who go online using their mobile devices, such as a tablet or smartphone.

So any blog or website that hasn't been transformed accordingly will be superseded by those that have. It's a cruel world. Being penalised because you are unable to adapt or change your theme into a mobile-friendly version is not a nice thing.

But think of it in the users' point of view. It is a pain trying to read the tiny font of a blog or website that hasn't been properly adapted. A wide blog that doesn't change according to the screen size will become more difficult to read, as the endless scrolling to find the end of the sentences is a big turn-off.

So if you want your blog to be read by more people, and found more easily via the search engines, you know what you have to do.

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Alice Elliott writes the Beginner Bloggers blog for beginner and post-beginner bloggers to “explain things really simply” about blogging and WordPress. She specialises in simple, easy to understand, highly visual courses and tutorials using ordinary, everyday words. Why not also visit her award winning Fairy Blog Mother blog to learn some more.

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