Responsive vs. Mobile Website: Which Is Right for Your Business?

Last year mobile search volume surpassed desktop query volume according to BIA/Kelsey data just released in May 2015.  On April 21st Google changed their local search algorithms for searches from mobile devices to demote or exclude your website from the search results if it isn’t “mobile friendly“.  It is clear that mobile devices are changing the requirements of how you are found in search and the technology used to present your message and brand to visitors.

Before you make a decision on how to deal with the increasing requirement to be ready for the mobile visitor it is important to understand the two most common methods for achieving a “mobile friendly” web presence.  You can choose to build and serve a mobile version of your website or pursue a responsive design with your current website.

Mobile Websites

Before responsive design became refined and popular we would build a separate version of your website specifically designed for the smaller smartphone screen. When the user accesses your websites URL a check is made to determine your device type and if you are on a mobile device that version of your website is served to the visitor.  This does create the opportunity to build a custom tailored mobile experience that can be superior than a responsive site, but it also creates essentially two websites that need to be maintained.  If changes are made to the desktop version of the site you would have to also change the mobile version of your website.  This creates more work as well as the opportunity for errors and increased content management.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design on mobile devices phone, laptop and tablet pcIn the past few years we have been using a technique called responsive web design.  In this approach the site is designed to adapt to the display size based on the users device or even as they re-size their browser window on a desktop.  This solution also solves the problem of adapting to the multitude of mobile devices from smartphones to tablets and other mobile devices.  Here at Simply Creative Media we design in WordPress and all of our WordPress sites are responsive and tested on multiple devices.  We design for mobile first to make sure that the presentation of your website looks great on all screen formats.

Which approach is right for your website?

The preferred approach for business websites today is responsive design.  In 2012 Google also made it clear that they prefer responsive web design.

There are two primary reasons for this preference:

  1. Compatibility of your website with future devices.  Although there may need to be small code changes to accommodate new device sizes those changes are very easy and minor.  Your website will always adapt to ever changing mobile screen sizes.
  2. Requires a single domain.  In the scenario of having a separate mobile version of your website you also have to keep a unique domain for that version. Usually this is a sub-domain such as m.yourwebsite.com but is another moving part to maintain.  Although Google is pretty smart about indexing your site this can also create problems with SEO and local search engine optimization.

There is a case for a separate mobile website.  E-Commerce focused sites are a great example of this, a superior user experience can be achieved with a mobile design rather than adapting the presentation to suit multiple display sizes including desktop.  mobile.walmart.com is one of many examples of how large e-commerce sites like Walmart and Amazon design specifically for the mobile experience and to reduce user frustration and improve conversion rates.  Local retail such as a restaurant may also benefit for a very tailored mobile experience.  Visitors to a restaurants site are typically last minute, in a hurry or on the move and want to get to key information such as the hours of operation, location, phone number and menu.

If you haven’t addressed mobile in your web strategy it is already affecting your search results and traffic, since November 2014 Google started testing their new search algorithms and on April 21st. of 2014 officially implementing them so that a user who is “Googling” from their mobile device will not return your business in the search results if you are not mobile friendly.

The bottom line as with any web development project is to know your target market, their behavior and needs.  Work with a great web development company to come up with the right solution for your business.

Get a Free Mobile Evaluation

Give us a call and we would be glad to evaluate your website for “mobile friendly” behavior.  Just click on the contact box in the right hand column or at the bottom of the page.  913-732-0095