Is It Worth It to Update Your Website to Mobile Responsive Yourself?

Mother from Hitchcock's Psycho movie

Is It Worth It to Update Your Website to Mobile Responsive Yourself?

WordPress updates will age you. And maybe drive you off your rocker. So before you go Norman Bates over it, consider what’s required to update your WordPress site to mobile responsive very, very carefully BEFORE you try to go it alone.

This is the final post in my series about how I tried to DIY my site update. Here’s how much time and money it took to migrate my consulting-oriented website to a mobile-responsive theme. Along with before/after analytics on my site’s performance on mobile, I list the most common mistakes made on mobile sites. Consultants, sole proprietors, small business owners, use this to assess whether it’s better to farm this project out or give it a go on your own.

Cost and time for updating my WordPress site to mobile responsive

When I set out to update my site my rough budget was $1000. I aimed to get the site done in three months, working in my spare time evenings and weekends. The reality:

Duration12 weeks20 weeks 
Planning 7.5 hrs 
Research/select theme 6 hrs 
Coordinate with hosting co & developer 6 hrs 
Set up nav, pages in new site 10.5 hrs 
Editing, writing, formatting content 41 hrs 
Photo, graphics management 12 hrs 
Blog post writing (6) 26 hrs 
SEO/meta descriptions 5 hrs 
General troubleshooting 12 hrs

BEFORE site update – Google Mobile-friendly TestMoore Creative old website Google Mobile-Friendly Page Test

AFTER site update – Google Mobile-friendly TestMobile friendly test - After update

User Experience Performance Improvements

To see how my work on the site has improved it, I checked on UX and page speed analytics with several free tools, Dynatrace Performance Test, GT Metrix Speed Test, WebPagetest and Google PageSpeed Insights. (Also have a look at this report on mobile ranking factors. It has useful tips like the number of images per page the top-performing mobile sites have: four.) Some of my new site’s scores:

  • 99/100 on UX
  • 98/100 on serving up properly scaled images
  • 100/100 on proper redirects

Mobiletestme old Merry Ann Moore site on iPhone 6s

Appearance of old site on iPhone 5

Mobile test me after

Appearance of new site on iPhone 5

Page Speed Performance

My site’s page load speed for desktop now scores 97/100, with load times of 2.0 to 3.7 seconds.

Page load speed on mobile is now between 2.0 and 3.9 seconds, comparing favorably to both several competitors I measured against and to some very big companies: Page load speed compared to industry averagesResponse time comparison - After comp

But there is still work to be done, due largely to photo compression issues from my legacy site. Despite the many painful hours I devoted to photo management, I could still be doing 11 percent better on photo compression for page speed.

BEFORE PageSpeed ScoresPage Speed score mobile BEFORE

AFTER PageSpeed Scores

Moore Creative website mobile page speed score after update

Moore Creative website desktop page speed score after

9 Most Common Mistakes in a Mobile Site

Google lists nine common mistakes that website updates should avoid, for creating a mobile-friendly site:

  1. Blocked JavaScript, CSS and image files
  2. Unplayable content (videos, podcasts, images)
  3. Faulty redirects and improper 404 redirects
  4. Interstitials—pop-up ads, forms for opting in to email, app downloads that take up the whole screen, etc.—that make for poor user experience
  5. Irrelevant cross-links (when mobile pages aren’t pointing to the corresponding page on your desktop site)
  6. Slow mobile pages
  7. Viewport settings not correct (the viewport meta tag that tells browsers how to adjust the page’s dimension and scaling to suit the device hasn’t been used)
  8. Small font size
  9. Touch elements too close (like links, CTA buttons or click-to-call icons)

My old site was guilty of seven of these. But it paid its debt to society and is now on the right side of most of Google’s mobility laws.

3 Pieces of Advice Before Updating Your Own WordPress Site to Mobile-friendly

My best advice for sole proprietors, consultants or small business owners who don’t need hefty e-commerce functionalities in a website?

  1. Migrate your WordPress site over to Weebly or a similar drag-and-drop platform.
  2. If you’re committed to WordPress, pay a developer who codes for a living to do the update. If you’re rebuilding a WP site, you will confront not just known unknowns. You’ll also find yourself dealing with tasks you thought would be simple but lead down a warren of rabbit holes. If you have low tolerance for “Now I Will Spend an Hour Trying to Figure Out How to…” work, a DIY update is not for you.

For one example, I wanted to keep a Twitter feed widget on my site. I added it to my footer, then discovered I needed something called a security key. This led to several messages with the WordPress theme developer and consumed way too much time. (Here’s how to get your Twitter security key. You’re welcome.)

  1. Pick a theme with features you like and avoid customization. Any tailoring of the off-the-shelf theme—like changing the fonts or adding testimonials in a different place—means you’re likely looking at creating a child theme. Then your plugins will have to be manually updated every time the WordPress theme is updated. My theme seems to issue updates about once a month. So plan on hiring a web developer and paying for ongoing monitoring to keep your site current. If you don’t, your site will be vulnerable to hacking.

An update to mobile responsive is the right time to think over how you can most efficiently handle the administration of your website. It’s not like the old days, when a site could sit untouched for several years. It’s now an ongoing management project.

While my own update made me a lot better-versed in WordPress, I also learned there are better options for independent consultants and many small businesses. Ones that will keep you out of the nuthouse.

Read the full series, and avoid my mistakes, by checking out the other posts in this series, Why Updating Your WordPress Site to Mobile Responsive Will Drive You Insane.

Merry Ann Moore

I'm a born creative trapped in an analytic's body. My work has spanned comms, content marketing, web development, branding, and political organizing. I will talk your ear off about Serie A, the Portland Thorns, croissants aux amandes, the latest thing my dog rolled in, and the genius of David Byrne.

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