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7 Tips To Develop And Test WordPress Websites for Responsive Design

With mobile device usage surpassing desktops, it's important that you use a responsive design for your website. If you're using WordPress, there are many great templates and themes that are already responsive. However, you still need to optimize your website to the best of its ability. Many of the templates and themes are not optimized as well as it can be. They also have many scaling issues which you'll encounter as your site grows.

If you want to develop and test your WordPress site for a responsive experience, here are some tips that will help:

Tip #1: Focus on CSS

CSS is what really helps you minimize unnecessary graphics and make your design appealing to the eye. In fact, CSS itself is what's being used to build responsive designs. You want to take it to the next level and use it to improve how your font looks as well as how your site loads.

For instance, you can set up multiple CSS stylesheets for different browsers. This would remove the unnecessary loading of stylesheets for Firefox when the user is on Chrome. You can also use CSS to load the top of the fold of your website first. This works great for sites that are heavy on content and need to keep the attention of the user as the site loads.

Tip #2: Optimize Images for Responsive Design

In most cases, it will be the images that will be slowing down the loading speed of your site. The perfect example can be found in law firm design where high-quality photos are used to show professionalism, credibility, and authority. While impressive, the images can make it a pain for the user waiting for the site to load.

That's why you want to compress these images as much as possible. Your site should not be loading small blocks of images so that the user can interact with it. You also want to use JPEG, GIF, and PNG-8 image file formats. Other image formats like TIF and PNG are very high quality but also large in size.

Tip #3: Use Grids to Guide Your Design

Grid view is simply organizing your page elements into columns. By visualizing your site in this manner, it helps you improve the design and development of your site. For example, you can allocate specific grids or portion of grids for your navigation menu and your header graphic. This results in a website that's organized very well, symmetrical, and easy to navigate.

This suddenly becomes more impactful when it comes to responsive design. You're going to be dealing with users that are accessing your site with smaller screens. Designing with grid makes everything look cleaner, balanced, and spacious. The alternative can result in inconsistencies that hurt the flow of your site if you end up making some simple design mistakes.

Tip #4: Work on How JavaScript is Implemented

There are many things you can do to make sure your site's JavaScript doesn't slow down your site. You can start by minifying your JavaScript code which will make a big difference if you're running many scripts. Then you use asynchronous loading which loads scripts simultaneously as opposed to sequentially.

You can the exclude the scripts that you are not running in either a specific page or in your JavaScript libraries. This makes perfect sense when you realize that you're only using a small portion of the scripts in your library. You also may only use specific scripts for your main page, making it useless to load it throughout your entire site.

Tip #5: Optimize Your Site for Speed

The importance of fast loading speeds has been mentioned several times so far. But working on your site speed should be a big part of the development process as opposed to something that requires a few tweaks here and there. Every extra second of loading time hurts your conversion rates significantly. It also increases the abandon rate of your site.

Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to reduce your site loading speed. This includes enabling browser caching for repeat visitors, minifying your code, upgrading your web host plan, and even using a CDN. You can go the extra mile by creating accelerated mobile pages (AMP) but just be aware that it may not be worth the effort for everyone.

Tip #6: Test Your Site on Chrome DevTools

Chrome is currently the most popular web browser, so it makes sense to test your site using their tool. Chrome DevTools is a set of tools for web developers and it's built into Google Chrome. What you want to do is to access a feature called device mode. It helps developers test and debug issues with their responsive sites.

Device mode emulates the mobile device browsing experience better than most tools out there. It'll test your site with different screen sizes, evaluate your site's performance, simulate geolocation (if your site uses it), and identify any potential problems. You can get more details by going to the official Google page.

Other tools to use to test the mobile experience include:

Tip #7: Utilize the Right Plugins

Using the right WordPress plugins can also help improve the performance of your responsive design. For example, the Any Mobile Theme Switcher is a plugin that will detect the browser or OS of the mobile device and display the right theme. Then there's the WordPress Mobile Pack that allows you to turn your website into a mobile app without creating an app yourself.

Finally, there's the WPTouch Mobile Plugin which allows you to create a mobile responsive site if you don't have one in place already or don't like the themes that are out there. There are many customization options to help you achieve your desired look. It also works well with the Google Mobile test which is the go-to test for many webmasters.

These seven tips should give you a better idea of how to develop and test your WordPress site for a responsive design. Creating a responsive site seems straightforward but the little details make a big difference. There's a lot of optimization that needs to be implemented to provide your users with the perfect mobile browsing experience.

About The Author
Rodney Warner is the founder of Connective Web Design. You can find him on his company website or on Instagram.

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