Nearly 17.4 percent of web traffic comes through mobile devices. As smart phones become even more ubiquitous, that number will only increase. As a result, companies are compelled to create mobile-friendly versions of their websites.
The debate that’s arisen from this growth is whether an organization should use responsive web design – creating a site that works similarly on a PC and a mobile device – or opt to create a dedicated mobile site.
What’s the Difference?A website built with a responsive code base is an existing desktop website but completely fluid, scaling on the fly as the browser window is adjusted and providing a user with an optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices – from the biggest desktop computers to the smallest smartphones. In short, a responsive website responds to user control.
A website built with a mobile framework is essentially a reset of an existing desktop website. It's a custom, separate website (m.yoursite.com or mobile.yoursite.com) designed to provide a user with a unique and optimized smartphone Web browsing experience.
The Case for Responsive DesignThe number one reason to opt for responsive design is overall simplicity. Regardless of where the customer decides to look at your site, they’ll be able to see it as it was intended. On the developer side, responsive sites, though more complex to create up front, are also easier to maintain down the road because the code doesn’t need to be modified to fit various formats.
Responsive design is also the preferred choice of Google, so that’s a big plus, too.
For a content-heavy site, responsive design may be the best solution. You create your content once and can publish it everywhere. You also spend less time on mobile-specific development because the site
The Case for Dedicated Mobile SitesConsider your average customer. Do they expect a custom experience when accessing your site via mobile? If so, a dedicated mobile site may be the better option. One example of this would be if the primary function of the site, or portions of the site, is meant to act as an application or connect with separate applications. On Amazon, for example, the primary action is for a user to purchase items while housing secure customer data. A native app would be able to integrate directly with a user's personal mobile device, which is easier for the end user if they want to securely open the app and buy something.
The biggest reason to go with a dedicated mobile site is the user experience. Are you content with providing visitors the same interactive result no matter how they navigate to your site, or should the mobile experience be different fundamentally because of your brand or a unique service offering? If the latter, the choice is clear.
A final reason (and probably the most common) to go with a dedicated mobile site, might be that your business already has a well-designed website (non-responsive) and isn’t ready for a full site redesign. In that case, it may make more sense to develop a simple mobile site than trying to fit a responsive approach into a site that wasn’t designed that way. In some cases, this is a more economical approach, until your next major redesign.