Should You Make Your Joomla Template or Website Responsive?

Earlier we’ve discussed the rise of mobile internet users and the need for responsive web design this creates. But what if you already have a (non-responsive) Joomla template or website? Should you convert it to a responsive Joomla template or website?

What version of Joomla are you using?

Before thinking about making your website responsive you should first consider what version of Joomla your website is currently at:

Joomla 1.0

For both large and small websites, the time to upgrade has come. By now the Joomla project is at version 3.0, and major improvements to security, functionality, accessibility and many other areas have been made in between. If you want to have a responsive website based on Joomla 1.0, you will probably have to create a template from scratch, and hack Joomla left and right to get it to comply with the most basic responsive needs.

Joomla 1.5

Users that are still on version Joomla 1.5 and want to have a responsive layout should seriously consider upgrading to later versions of Joomla. The 1.5 version of Joomla was replaced by Joomla 2.5 as a Long Term Support version about a year ago already. Even though there are some responsive Joomla templates that will also work on Joomla 1.5, the system most certainly wasn’t built to handle responsive websites. Unless you have very valid reasons not to upgrade to Joomla 2.5 or Joomla 3.0, I would advice you to switch as soon as possible. Not only will it become easier to make your website responsive, but it will also give you numerous benefits in terms of administration and extending of your website.

Joomla 1.6 / Joomla 1.7

These versions of Joomla contain a well-known security flaw that will allow attackers to gain control over your entire website in minutes. Upgrade now.

Joomla 2.5

This one is the most difficult to determine. Many responsive Joomla templates are available for Joomla 2.5, and the system is also the current Long Term Support version of Joomla. If you’re using a professional Joomla template that isn’t responsive, you might want to check out the website of your template provider to see if a responsive version of that template is available. Switching to that template should make it easy to make your Joomla website responsive.

Do note however, that having a responsive template doesn’t automatically mean that your entire website is responsive. For example, any components that you are using will have to support responsive design as well for them to work well on every screen size.

Joomla 3.0

You’re already using the latest version of Joomla and are likely to already have a responsive front end of your website. If you’re using Joomla 3.0 and have a template that is not responsive, try contacting your template provider to find out why.

Why isn’t every Joomla template responsive by now?

Unfortunately making a website or template responsive isn’t as easy as it might seem. There are several reasons for this:

Drastic changes to the source code

Making changes to any part of the source code of a website is difficult enough. After all, the source code of a website is written with a certain goal in mind, and at the moment of writing supporting mobile devices such as iPhones and iPads wasn’t one of them. Most likely at very few points in the code the possibility of responsive design was taken into account. This makes it extra difficult to make large changes that are required to make a website responsive. Furthermore, the website will likely be based on old standards, which makes it difficult to use responsive techniques, which are after all based on more code using more recent standards.

A different mindset

A solid responsive website requires a different mindset than a traditonal desktop only website. People are suggesting that within a year more people will use mobile devices to surf the web than people using desktop computer to do so. The new mindset to focus on changes ever more to ‘mobile first’.

Mobile first

This approach has mobile devices as starting point. Other than thinking from a desktop website as starting point and adapting the website for mobile, this process is now reversed. It is first determined which elements of a website should be displayed in the first place, and in what order. For mobile devices this is more important than for desktop devices because all content is displayed in a single column, instead of in multiple columns like on a desktop.

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