5 Plugins to Optimize WordPress for Smartphones
It’s no secret that the rise of smartphones has become exponential over the last 6 years. Starting from now-archaic-seeming tech like T-Mobile’s Sidekick and progressing through the Palm, Blackberry, iPhone and Android, cellular phone technology has exploded in a way that can only be described as “highly contagious.” This has not been lost on the blog world, either. These days, if you’re a blogger who is not in possession of an iPhone, people may raise an eyebrow – “how do you do anything?!” Over the last four years, smartphone use has gone from 17% to 42%, meaning almost half of all Americans own an iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, or other form of smart phone technology.
As one who frequents the subway on a regular basis, it’s rare to see anyone whose nose is not firmly rooted in their smartphone on longer trips (longer meaning anything over 4 minutes). They are addictive little machines, and people are slowly starting to treat them as they once treated their personal computers. They do their banking from them, respond to emails, read the newspaper, look for restaurants and make reservations… And read blogs.
You want to make your blog as easy to access as possible, so implementing a smartphone-ready system into your WordPress blog is crucial. Here are some easy-to-install plugins that will allow your smartphone-using readers to conveniently view your blog from their new favorite piece of technology.
If you’d like to optimize your blog for a smartphone, but don’t actually have a smartphone, you can download iPhoney, which is a free application allowing you to view websites as they would appear on an iPhone.
Many blogs may show up just ok on mobile browsers – but what about all of the new touch-screen phones out there? WP Touch optimizes your blog for users of the iPod touch and iPhone by turning your blog into a “web-application.” This means that your site loads super fast, and can be tailored by the user. It’s an extremely flexible plugin that adds a “theme” for users on smartphones. You can customize the appearance of your blog right from the dashboard, though the plugin will not interfere with your current WordPress theme for users not on smartphones. It’s an incredibly worthwhile investment, as you get continuous updates for life! This is extremely important with the rate at which technology is evolving.
You can have a license for one site for $29, five sites for $59, and an unlimited developer’s license for $199. There is also a free version of the plugin with abbreviated features. You can purchase WP Touch from this page.
This is another great, flexible program that detects mobile browsers and automatically converts your blog into a mobile-friendly site. The contents of the plugin are the equivalent of a WP Theme, so you are able to customize the appearance just as you would a regular theme. While it is not compatible with the auto-upgrade feature of WordPress (an easy manual upgrade won’t kill you), it is compatible with WP Super Cache, which will give you peace of mind. This plugin is completely free, as well, and works with touch phones (though not to the extent of WPTouch).
Besides having a catchy name, this plugin will allow you the most basic functions of a iPhone/iPod Touch theme. If you don’t presume that many of your readers are accessing your website from their Apple smartphones (and thus don’t want to put a ton of work into optimizing), this is a great plugin for you. It’s also compatible with the touch-screen versions of the iPod/iPhone, but again, doesn’t offer the customization abilities of WPTouch. It will automatically scale down any image larger than 300 pixels to fit onto the screen of a iPhone, eliminating ugly scrolling.
If you’ve been scanning this post and thinking “Ok, so iPhone/iPod is covered… What about everything else?”, you’ll likely want to snag WordPress Mobile Pack. Its support for Android, Palm, BlackBerry, and of course the Apple products will definitely ensure that everyone viewing your site is actually, well, able to. In addition to viewing the site, you also get a mobile admin panel which allows you to actually post and customize from your mobile device. It features pagination, image scaling, and mobile ads – all there to make your mobile browsing experience perfect. Still not sold? It also comes packaged with a mobile analytics program, which keeps track of the mobile users viewing your site. Perfect, right?
While it doesn’t apply to me, personally, I was really excited to discover this plugin. Gamer’s Pack does everything that the above plugins do for smartphones and applies it to handheld gaming devices. I often forget that today’s Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS-Lite, and Sony PSP all have internet capabilities. Auto-detection prevents you from having to do any specific configuration, they’ll display automatically. This package is actually three separate plugins (one for DS-Lite, one for Wii, and one for PSP), so you can pick and choose which platforms you’d like to support.
BONUS: One of our new favorites is the HandHeld WordPress Plugin – made specifically for Mobile devices.