Best Mobile-Optimized WordPress Themes

When it comes to getting traffic, building an audience, and making sales, mobile is basically everything now.

More than half the traffic on the web comes from mobile devices, Google now uses mobile-first search indexing, and the value of purchases made on smartphones and tablets this year will total $117 billion.

If you plan to build a website, you need to choose a mobile-friendly WordPress theme from the thousands available. That can be a bit overwhelming.

To narrow the field and get a better understanding of what makes a great mobile-friendly WordPress website theme, we looked at a few of the most popular ones—AstraGeneratePressHestia, and Sydney—to see why so many WordPress users choose WordPress hosting

What to Look for in a Mobile-Friendly WordPress Theme

As you shop for a mobile-friendly theme for your WordPress website, keep an eye out for these key features.

1. Responsiveness is a must

Whatever theme you choose must be responsive in order to display properly on mobile devices. That’s because a responsive template adjusts to the visitor’s device type by, for instance, changing from a two-column desktop layout to a single-column format for smartphones and resizing page elements to make them fit. This is a basic requirement for any mobile-friendly website.

You can see how the Sydney theme adjusts from desktop to tablet to smartphone by reducing margins and, on phones, moving from three columns to one.

example of desktop version of responsive websiteexample of tablet version of responsive websiteexample of smartphone version of responsive website

However, responsiveness alone isn’t the only thing to look for in a mobile-friendly theme. Many other elements go into a truly mobile-friendly site design, and a good theme will support most or all of them.

2. Appearance matters for usability

The best mobile site designs keep smartphone and tablet use conditions in mind. Think about how many times you’ve had to find a patch of shade to read something on your phone’s screen while you’re outdoors, or maybe you’ve had to adjust your device brightness or zoom in because the text was hard to read.

Readable mobile design is clean web design, with uncluttered backgrounds, enough contrast between background and text for easy reading, and fonts that are large enough and simple enough (think sans serif, not script) for users to scan on a phone, even outdoors on a sunny day.

Look for a customizer tool that will show you what your changes look like as you make the edits. Each of the themes mentioned in this post has a customizer utility.

3. Google Fonts compatibility helps in several ways

Astra and Sydney both support Google Fonts. This matters for typography options, because there are more than 800 font families in the Google Fonts directory.

It also matters for your budget, because Google Fonts are free. And it matters for that all-important mobile page speed. Google uses caching and compression to deliver its fonts fast in the smallest files it can, so your typography won’t slow down your site and cause visitors to get impatient and leave.

4. Navigation is key to a good mobile user experience

Good themes make it easy to get around your site on a mobile device with taps and touches, instead of relying on mouse and keyboard input. They also have a relatively flat site architecture with as few sub-levels as possible so visitors can go from your homepage to whatever product or post they’re looking for in as few taps as possible.

Hestia and Sydney offer the simplest design approach, with a single-page site layout for mobile. That means visitors can find what they want without having to navigate between pages.

Great mobile-friendly themes also include features that encourage visitors to stick around and interact more with your site. For example, Astra’s Pro version makes it easy for shoppers to find what they want in a WooCommerce store—sales bubbles, dropdown cart, and quickview tools all reduce your visitors’ need to move from one screen to another as they gather information and shop.

5. Performance is critical for search results and user experience

Google says 53% of mobile users will bounce if a site takes longer than three seconds to load, but the a average mobile site load time is an agonizingly long 15 seconds. So even the most elegant, simple mobile theme has to be fast and lean to be worth using.

mobile page speed industry benchmarks

Bigger files take longer to load, which is why the best themes proudly proclaim how few resources they need. GeneratePress takes up less than 30KB with a default WordPress installation, while Astra uses less than 50KB and loads in half of one second. Both of these themes use Vanilla Javascript rather than jQuery to avoid render-blocking issues that slow down load times.

6. SEO friendliness helps your site get found

Google’s moving to a mobile-first index for search results, but having any old mobile site isn’t good enough. The best themes for mobile are designed with SEO in mind and make it as easy as possible for search engine crawlers to find their way around.

Hestia has an SEO-friendly structure, while GeneratePress and Astra have built in the structure that’s required for rich snippets to display in search results. All three of these themes as well as Sydney follow best practices for coding, which also helps with SEO.

7. WooCommerce compatibility helps you optimize your store

WooCommerce is one of the most popular plugins for WordPress, and most popular themes are designed to be WooCommerce0compatible.

Mobile-friendliness is crucial for online stores now because, by the end of 2018, half of all online orders will come from mobile devices, and more than 60% of all e-commerce traffic already comes from phones and tablets. Creating a mobile-friendly shopping experience for your customers can reduce cart abandonment, increase revenue, and encourage customers to keep coming back to your store.

The Pro version of the Astra theme includes a WooCommerce module with grid view, gallery, and infinite scrolling options for your product catalog. Hestia and GeneratePress are also WooCommerce compatible.

Choosing Your Mobile-Friendly WordPress Theme

As you’re searching for your ideal mobile-optimized WordPress theme, ask yourself how each one you look at stacks up in each of these areas. Take your time, read user reviews, explore each theme’s demos, and download a few and try them out before you make your decision.

Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelance B2B content marketing writer. Her specialty areas include SMB marketing and growth, data security, IoT, and fraud prevention