We get asked this question a lot: are the websites we develop in WordPress considered responsive design? And will they work on mobile devices like phones and tablets?
The good news, and the bottom line, is that WordPress websites are inherently responsive, and are viewable on any format — phone, tablet, laptop.
WordPress by itself is not what we consider “true responsive” but it is inherently mobile friendly and content responsive. What does all this technobabble mean? True responsiveness means that everything — the background, the images, the font size, etc. — always scales no matter what size your browser window. For these types of sites, you could take your desktop browser window and make it all sorts of funny shapes and it will scale accordingly, and in some cases, shift columns around.
WordPress is content responsive in that the site’s main content (text) area will scale font size to comfortably fit the device’s window. In real-world terms, that means that if you load up a WordPress site on your mobile device and double-tap the text area or zoom in, the content will reformat itself for comfortable viewing. A few years ago, this was all you needed.
But times have changed. Responsive design is no longer an option; in fact, it’s mandatory for best search engine rankings.
The amount of web traffic viewed on mobile devices is growing year after year. And in April 2015, Google changed their algorithm to penalize non-responsive sites. Remember, Google’s goal is to give search results that make users’ lives easier, so they will factor in responsive design into search rankings.
At Atmosphere Websites, we’ve kept up on the latest responsive design trends. On top of WordPress’ natural content responsiveness, we build in additional functionality like a floating navigation menu and mobile-friendly sidebar access after content. If you’d like to see this in action, simply scale your browser until you see our site’s header and layout transform — this mimics a mobile screen size.
In the specialized area of galleries, WordPress does support some gallery plugins that are responsive. This means that the rows of thumbnails will collapse and restack based on the size of the browser window rather than creating a horizontal scrolling effect.
Tablet Style Design Trends (AKA “Parallax” Websites)
One of the current web design trends is to be totally tablet friendly — lots of vertical scrolling with a long home page, and big buttons. This is best used when the intended site readers will be reading on a tablet. This tablet style is typically used by app developers. It also looks rather “techy.” This design is typically built to facilitate touches and swipes, not clicks. Sites likes these will have larger headers and images because your fingertips are less precise than your mouse.
This kind of design, while trendy, works best only for a very tiny percentage of web users. Mobile devices only make up about 2-3% of web traffic, the bulk of people (like 70-80%) are still on some form of Windows while a bunch of other people use Mac or Linux desktops. While tablet friendly design is a smart idea for sites like like USA Today, who recently completely overhauled their site to be tablet-friendly, it just doesn’t make much sense for most target markets. For this reason, we would not recommend doing a site with this style of layout unless you’re a news outlet or your target audience is teenage girls who read exclusively on devices.