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Responsive Web Design or Mobile Website: How should one choose?

The fact that businesses need mobile-friendly websites is irrefutable, given the widespread smart phone boom. What is a trickier decision to make though is whether one should opt for a separate website for mobile devices, or instead get a responsive website design (which can render equally well across different screen sizes and devices) created. Choosing one over the other becomes easier once the following factors are considered during the decision-making process:

1. The User Experience goals: Some businesses may have specific business objectives for the desktop user, and others for the mobile user. This could include customizing the content length, the navigation, and the overall browsing experience according to the platform. Since a responsive web design is meant to keep the content as well as the functionality similar for both desktop and mobile devices, it may not prove to be such a great idea in this case.

So basically, a mobile website emerges the winner for a customized UX.

2. Cost: A mobile website is a separate entity from the desktop website of a business. Obviously, getting a new mobile website created and subsequently maintained alongside the already-existing desktop website would result in higher costs. If a business is quite small and simply wants a mobile-friendly website for the same target customers, it may find itself better off with a responsive website, meaning it does not need to create a new cost center for itself.

In short, responsive design wins the cost angle.

3. Ease of SEO: Say a mobile website does not have a page that exists in the desktop version of the business, but a user is searching it. How does a search engine find and index this page? This is just an example of how a mobile website can prove to be more challenging for SEO than a responsive one. Another aspect that can cause some tediousness is a case where a number of high-quality links may be pointing back to the desktop website, but not to the mobile site. In this scenario, the former would do quite well in search engine rankings, but not the latter. What can also be an advantage of a new responsive design in this scenario is that the online reputation of the older version of the desktop site is preserved and thus invaluable in terms of search-engine friendliness.

The general consensus on this one seems to be in favor of responsive design.

4. Technology compatibility: Responsive design is a relatively new technology. As a result, some older devices and browsers can find it difficult to load the website fast or even to its full potential. For a mobile website, since the experience is tailored to suit the screen size and the website if properly optimized, this issue simply does not arise.

If more users are using an older browser, responsive design loses its advantage.

5. Maintenance: Having a responsive website makes it easy for the end user to remember a single url, a single address to go to when they are looking for the business. There is no need to provide separate urls for the mobile version and the desktop one on the marketing material, no risk of spoiling the experience due to slow loading times that could affect re-directs.

Thus, in terms of maintenance, responsive design involves far more simplicity.

With each of the elements listed above playing a significant role in arriving at a choice, it’s simply a matter of determining which of them are of particular importance to an organization.

Ready to make your choice yet?


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