In any event, this debate really leaves the question open as to which is better. In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of each to help you decide which option best suits the needs of your business.
Responsive Design 101A "responsive" site is built to accommodate all aspects of a mobile visitor user experience, regardless of what kind of device they are using. These sites will theoretically work just as well on an iPhone as a desktop, giving users access to the full content of the site regardless of where they are or how they choose to access it.
Responsive sites are flexible and “fluid”, and automatically adjust to the width of the screen. Certain elements may be hidden or rearranged in order to adjust to the new dimensions of the user’s screen.
The underlying assumption with a responsive site is that the user wants all the information on the primary site available at any time, on any device.
Mobile Sites 101In contrast, a mobile-only site is typically a stripped-down version of the main site, with less content and emphasizing contact methods rather than a complete website experience.
A mobile site is usually predicated upon the user having visited the main site already and simply wanting to check the status of an order or verify a reservation, making portability and efficiency more important than full access.
The starting point for deciding which will work better is which of these assumptions your site is based on.
Return On InvestmentBuilding a new website costs money and typically involves engaging a third party to do it unless you have a robust in house team of designers and developers. Naturally, you want to get the greatest ROI from your site scheme, however you decide to set it up. The advantage of a responsive site is a "one and done" build, where the bulk of the front-end expense is simply setting the site up. For responsive sites, your company can leverage one code base instead of building and maintaining multiple code bases.
With a responsive site, you mainly need to worry about updating content. However, a responsive site typically costs more upfront to build than a regular website because it has to be built to interact with different devices using different operating systems. Also, the site's navigation menu is going to have to work with all these different devices, which usually means it will have to be customized.
Building a regular website and a mobile website independent of one another creates a different hassle. Building a mobile-only site can be less costly to build upfront than responsive sites but can can be double the cost in the long run as your company will need to maintain and update multiple sets of code. However, a mobile website can often be a good choice for a site devoted to consumer goods, whereas a regular site would be better for a complete inventory plus thought-provoking articles.
SEOAnother consideration here is SEO. Google says having a single, responsive website is better for search engine rankings than two separate sites, each of which is duplicating content with the other and thus diluting the SEO power of each site individually. In this situation, you need to consider how your SEO rankings look currently and how having a regular and a mobile site might affect them. If your mobile site is primarily a contact page or a way for people to look up items on the go, this is unlikely to be as much of a problem. However, as search engine algorithms change, SEO effectiveness could make or break many sites.
So Which One's Best?
Think about the kind of business you are envisioning. An online apparel store will have different needs than an e-book publisher, while a consulting firm will need a lot more content than a candy shop. Then consider how people will access your site. Are you primarily targeting the PC or smart device crowd? Does your entire site need to be portable, or can you get by with less content for the mobile user? The answers to these questions will help you choose which way to go.
Whatever you decide, the needs of the customer and user experience should always be uppermost in your mind. A basic, economical website will fare better as a responsive, while a site crammed with content may require a pared-down mobile version to be helpful to the user. With the new online aesthetic gearing toward simplicity and the screens on smart phones varying between huge and tiny, the overall trend in the site-building world seems to be moving to responsive versus separate.
What will ultimately dictate which option is best for your business is the cost, the projected ROI, and the user experience for the end user.
Which type of mobile site are you considering building?