How To Make A WordPress Website Mobile Friendly

With an increasing number of people browsing the web on mobile devices, now would be a good time to make sure that your website is mobile friendly. Gotta keep pace with the changing times and trends, right?

Fortunately it’s not all that hard to get your site to show up nice and proper on mobile devices. All  thanks to plugins.

Now, there are several plugins that you can choose from. WPTouch is hugely popular option; it’s been downloaded more than 5 million times. Then, there’s WP Mobile Edition. And a whole bunch of other plugins as well (just do a search!). But the one that I would like to talk about in-depth in this article is the Jetpack plugin.

Whats unique about Jetpack (created by Automattic, the good peeps who created WordPress!) is that unlike most plugins that focus on a single functionality, Jetpack packs in a whole spectrum of features. Using Jetpack you can easily install contact forms, comment forms, get stats for your site, connect your site to various social media platforms and so on.

The cool thing about the plugin is that you can enable/disable any functionality that you like. The plugin isn’t without its drawbacks though. Personally, I find it easier to use stand alone plugins and use Jetpack for just a handful of features such as Publicize and yes, to “mobile-ready” some of my sites with just a click. Below I take you step-by-step from installing the Jetpack plugin to enabling the “Mobile Theme” functionality.

A Caveat

Before I begin, I just want to apprise you of a few shortcomings with plugins such as WPTouch and even Jetpack. First off, you won’t have too much flexibility as to how your site renders on mobile devices. Another common problem is that the sidebar tends to vanish all together in the mobile version ( there is a way out for Jetpack though..if you aren’t afraid of code that is! Go here and here). But on the brighter side, plugins are a quick and super easy solution to get your sites all set for mobile devices.

Tip: You could consider a premium plugin such as Graphene Mobile Neo that provides more flexibility than free plugins.

The other option to consider is to move to a new theme all together, one that is responsive out of the box. That’s to say, the theme will have mobile responsiveness as an inbuilt feature. The Lifestyle Pro theme from Studiopress is one such example and is in fact the theme that I am using for this site. But it is a premium theme and it is not an easy theme to customize especially if you are a beginner.

So moving on to Jetpack and its installation.

Step 1: Install the Jetpack Plugin

The Jetpack plugin actually comes pre-installed with WordPress most of the times. So there’s a good chance you already have it. To check, from your dashboard go  to Plugins>Installed Plugins and see if Jetpack is listed as one of the installed plugin. If yes, make sure the plugin is activated and go to Step 2. Else, head to Plugins>Add New and search for “Jetpack”. From the results look for Jetpack (you won’t have to look to far, it should be right at the top) and make sure the plugin creator is Automattic. Install and activate the plugin.

Step 2: Connect to WordPress.com

Once you activate Jetpack, you will find a message such as the one below in the dashboard:

install-jetpack-plugin

This is one reason why many are averse to Jetpack. In order to run the plugin, you need to create a WordPress.com account and then connect it to the plugin. But it’s not such a biggie, it will take all of 2 minutes. Simply click on the “Connect To WordPress” message and on the next screen create a WordPress.com account by clicking on the “Need an account” link and follow the prompts to authorize the connection.

 

Step 3: Enable the “Mobile Ready” feature

Next, you should see a message such as the one below:

plugin-settings

Now, it’s time to go to the settings page. To do that, go to Plugins>Installed Plugins, look for Jetpack and click on “Settings”. The “Settings” screen is where you will find all the features that Jetpack has to offer. You can view all the features, the ones that are active and inactive features by clicking on the “All”, “Active” or “Inactive” buttons respectively. For now, click on “Active” and then bulk select all the features and deactivate them.

select-jetpack-features

Then go to the list of inactivate plugins, look for the “Mobile Theme” feature, hover over it and activate it.

And ta da! Your website is not mobile ready.

You will find that the website shows up with just a single column on a mobile device which makes for improved legibility. All the sidebar widgets will be pushed down below the posts (if it shows up at all and that’s theme dependent). Along the top of the site, above the header you will find a Search bar and a very convenient fly-out menu.

Step 4: Configure The Mobile Theme

There aren’t too many configuration options. In fact, there’s just one! While on the “Settings”, look for “Mobile Theme” (which would have now moved to the “Active” category”) and mouse over it to click on the “Configure” link. You can choose whether to display full length posts or just excerpts. And that’s about all you can choose to change.

So there you have it, enjoy your mobile-ready website!

How To Find A Good Domain Name

So you are super set to launch your new website and are ready to piece together all the necessary ingredients: a domain name, hosting, wordpress installation and what not. You want to zoom ahead at full speed but might find yourself stuck at the very first step, that is, choosing a domain name.

Oh, but what is a domain name? A domain name is simply the web address to your website. For example: amazon.com, Netflix.com etc. are the domain names for these websites.

With the world wide web exploding with a gazillion websites, chances are that the domain of your dreams is not available anymore. There are extensions other than .com which have been around for a long time such as .net and .org. And to keep up with the growing demand, new extensions cropping up everyday: .biz, .mobi, .club etc. And yes, in all likelihood you should be able to find at least one extension where your domain is still available.

So what do you do? Do you settle for a .net or a .org extension? Many seem to go that route, but the truth is that those extensions have specific uses. For example, .org extension is meant for non-profit organizations and .net for a network. Or how about a .biz? That should work for most small businesses, right?

Personally, I wouldn’t do that. I am still totally biased towards “.com”. And the reasons are simple: recall value. Since the web has become synonymous with .com websites, if yours is a .com domain then it will go down well with your visitors.

That’s not to say that if your domain has an extension other than .com, you’re doomed! Nope. I have seen many .net, .biz, .me websites that are thriving. But it’s happened more than once that I typed out their domain name with a .com – as a matter of habit, only to be taken elsewhere.Of course, you can bookmark websites and that does away with the need to manually type out the domain name, but many visitors will visit a website that old-fashioned route: by typing out the name in the web address field.

But the good news is that you can get really creative with the domain name; it doesn’t necessarily have to make much grammatical sense! If you’re shopping around on Namecheap and you find that the name you wanted is taken, the website will offer you a bunch of suggestions (which are essentially synonyms of your original choice). But you can take it a step further. For example, say you’re website is to do with real estate, think of things that are representative of your business. So you might come up with: bricks, walls, house, home etc. Now add this representation to a noun/verb/adverb or whatever. So for example, redbricks.com, bricksintohomes etc.

See what resonates with you, go with your instinct! Just make sure that whatever you choose is short, memorable, easily read & understood, available as a username on social platforms and finally stay away from including established brands in the name.

Hope that’s not too tall an order!

Bad Reviews Make Me Wanna…

imageWP1….write a blog post apparently!

Yup. When I first saw the not so sparkly 2-star review for my book, WordPress For Beginners, my knee jerk response was to comment on the post itself. But I resisted, because you know, that’s just so “needy”.

Instead, here I am writing a whole long blog post about it, almost a month later. And no that’s not needy…right? RIGHT?

Ya? ;)

Before I go on, let me just say that writing a book can be a terrifying experience. You’re putting something so personal out into the world with no control over how it will be received. Errr..how can a book on web design be “something so personal”, you ask?

Well, I don’t care if the topic is Potatoes of Idaho, if it’s a book, it’s personal. Period.

Also, writing a book on WordPress is not easy as the software is constantly evolving. Every few months there’s a new update and it gets really hard to keep all the content forever fresh. Also, editing a published book takes time, no matter how small the change. So unless it’s absolutely necessary, I wait for 3-4 edits to pile up before I take the book down for making changes.

Anyway back to the review – when I first noticed it, I was on vacation. Which isn’t to say I didn’t care about it- I took a few breaths, acknowledged the hurt, realized that every reader is entitled to his/her opinion and then distracted myself with many a vacation goodies.

I really thought I had made my peace with it, but turns out I was in denial. And this realization dawned upon me just yesterday.

Yesterday was one of those days when, you know, for no reason at all you find yourself mired in anxiety, fear, insecurity and other equally delectable emotions. And then to top it all, out of the blue, I thought about the review.

And this time it STUNG.

And this time there were no distractions to protect me.

So this time I decided to vent. Just a tad.

Now let me be clear, I really do think that each reader (and consumer in general) is entitled to his/her opinion and my objective is not to impugn their review or get defensive. Instead, the underlying aim of this blog post is two-fold: (1) Give my insecurities a voice and (2) Present my side of the “story”.

But first off, some gratitude for the review: it did get me to stop procrastinating and make a few changes to the book. Changes that weren’t that big a deal, but long overdue. So thank you reviewer, for the well deserved kick in the butt!

Okay on to the “review of the review”, if you will.

#1 The reviewer: ” If you want to draw viewers to your site do not purchase this book, it is a waste of your money.”

Me: Okay, this one really killed me. And since I am dead, there’s not much I can say.

(Wakes up from the dead..)

#2 The reviewer: “…scattered in direction & the SEO advice is already outdated”

Me: I put in a lot of thought to plan out the book and I tried my best to present the material in a way that would make it easy for the readers to set up a website and also leave room for flexibility to make changes in the future. That’s why I divided the content into 3 steps: The Essentials, The Optimization, The Design. Also, the book uses a companion website, so it’s not all theory.

I am quite sure, if I had to do it all over again, I would stick to the 3-step format.

As for the SEO advice, the book covers the basics of SEO and gives common sense tips and advice, instead of the latest “hacks” to manipulate the search results. The only part that I thought was outdated was the bit on the Google keyword tool and that’s been fixed.

#3 “There are better resources & youtube videos.”
Me: Now that really is a subjective call and might be true, so can’t say much there.

#4 If the Author would have done more research and thought out a plan for the book & site it might have been better.
Me: Let me just say here that plenty of research and planning went into it. That’s something I can say with sincere conviction and honesty. #2 above has more details.

Phew.

That’s that I guess. Not sure if I am feeling better, but it had to be done.

Until next time…ciao.

Menu Editor For WordPress 3.5

#1: From the WordPress dashboard, go to ‘Appearance’, ‘Menus’ to reach the ‘Menus’ screen.

#2: Choose any name for the menu, feed it in the ‘Menu Name’ field and click on the ‘Create Menu’ button.

#3 Under ‘Theme Locations’, choose the menu you just created from the ‘Primary Menu’ drop down. Save.

Theme Location For The Custom Menu

#4:   Find the ‘Pages’ panel ; here you will find a list of pages that you have published on your site so far. Click on ‘View All’ tab of the ‘Pages’ panel to get the option of adding the ‘Home’ page to the menu. Check all the pages that you want to add to the navigation bar and click ‘Add to Menu’.

Add New Pages To The Menu

#5: Now, all the selected pages will appear as tabs on the right hand side in the ‘Menus’ screen.

Menu Items

#6 Drag and Drop each page’s tab, up or down depending on your preference. The top-most tab will be the first menu item in the navigation bar and so on.

Save the menu when you are done!

Put The Menu Items In The RIght Order

Refresh your website to check out your brand new navigation bar.

To add blog posts, categories etc. to the custom menu use the ‘Screen Options’ on the top right corner of the ‘Menus’ screen to check the boxes for Posts, Categories etc. Scroll down the ‘Menus’ screen and you should now be able to find the ‘Posts’ and ‘Tags’ panels as well.

Checking the ‘Automatically add new top-level pages’ in the ‘Menus’ screen will make sure that as and when you publish pages, they will automatically find their way into the navigation bar.

Create Sub Menu Items

You can also create sub menu items by dragging a tab below any tab and to its right, like so:

Create Sub Menu Items

Renaming Menu Items

Expand the tab for the menu item that you would like to rename by clicking on the tiny down arrow on the right hand side of the tab. Input the name you’d like to give it under “Navigation Label”

Rename Menu Items

Additional Custom Menus

Click on the “+” icon to add another custom menu and follow instructions given above

Additional Custom Menus

 

The ‘Genesis’ of my website

New theme on my website

I resisted it for a long time.

But it HAD to be done.

So, I steeled myself up, bit the bullet, took the plunge and changed the WordPress theme for this website to Genesis (by StudioPress).

Much drama over a theme change? What can I say, I don’t like change! And I was sort of attached to the old theme i.e. Thesis.

There was something so wonderfully expansive about Thesis.

It didn’t exactly look spectacular out of the box, but under the hood there were SO many options to work with that literally, you were limited only by your imagination as far as your site’s design goes.

That’s why I loved it so much: Thesis gave you a blank canvas that was full of possibilities.

Genesis works a bit differently. They have a whole slew of child themes to choose from that look pretty damn cool without doing much to them. So you can select a theme that’s closest to the design that you have in mind and use it as-is or tweak it around to your liking. And that’s a good way to go about designing your website too. But I personally prefer the starting-from-scratch approach. Just a personal preference is all.

Reasons for changing themes:

Several reason for it. The most important one being that I wanted a theme that was responsive out of the box. I went with Lifetstyle Pro child theme

With more and more people using their cell phones, tablets, Ipads and such to browse the internet, a responsive website is no longer a choice.

More like a necessity.

Now there are ways to make a Thesis website responsive as well. In fact, I have seen some gorgeous websites that run on it and show up beautifully on my phone. But I wasn’t too comfortable doing that, what with my site running on an older version of Thesis i.e. 1.8.5. I just wasn’t too sure about how long 1.8.5 would be supported. Also, I was in no mood to figure out the latest 2.0 version, which was meant to be wildly different in terms of usage.

Another reason why I moved is because I got sucked into the whole herd mentality and jumped on the bandwagon as well. A lot of people, many of who were hitherto Thesis loyalists, changed over to Genesis when Thesis 2.0 was released. As I explained above the latter is not very user friendly like its predecessor, 1.8.5.

So I guess I saw Genesis as a safer bet over the long run. And I saw now as a good time to make the change since there isn’t too much content on my site.

But the good news is that I am quite happy with my decision for I have managed to make my site look pretty much like it used to, even though there was a learning curve involved. And the places where it looks different are those that needed change anyway.

But I ain’t done with it. I still need to set a few things right, especially for smaller devices and of course the graphics need a lot of work.

All in good time!