5 Ways Mobile & Responsive Design Are Different


Responsive Web DesignThere are MANY reasons you should build your website with responsive design, rather than creating a mobile site (preference from Google being one of them). But there are some valid reasons decide to simply build a second site for mobile users… at least for now.

By all means, you must do SOMETHING to give your mobile visitors a frustration-free experience with your site.

If you have only a traditional website, you’ll have poor mobile conversion rates, as your site wasn’t designed to function on smaller screens or with slower cell connections. Did you know that 40% of people will choose another search result if your site is not mobile friendly? You can’t afford to let your smartphone visitors get annoyed with your mobile-unfriendly site and head over to the competition. Providing a great mobile-optimized web experience (e.g., simplified navigation, legible type without zooming, and tap-friendly, fingertip-sized buttons) is crucial to getting — and keeping — your leads and customers.

So… you have 2 choices:

  • Build a second website specifically optimized for mobile devices that you redirect mobile browsers to from your existing desktop site, OR
  • Replace your existing site with a single website that uses responsive design to adapt its layout “on the fly” according to whatever screen size it’s being viewed on

Both a mobile site and responsive design will optimize your website so it displays well on smaller screens, makes navigation easier, and speeds up your page-loading times. But, there are some differences and drawbacks to each.

Here are 5 ways mobile and responsive design are different, to help you make the right choice for your company’s site.

1. Responsive design uses only one website that’s coded to adapt to all screen sizes for all devices. It also lets you keep your own domain since the only thing that changes during your re-design is the code on the back-end. In contrast, a mobile template requires that in addition to your regular website for desktop computer display, you have a second mobile website (or subdomain — many companies use “m.YourDomainHere.com”). Having a second site can dilute or reduce your search traffic.

2. With responsive design, the size of the site template is based on screen size — not device — so that your site will display properly according to whatever size screen visitors are using. A mobile site, however, will most likely need to be redesigned and tweaked to accommodate next-generation devices. From this standpoint, responsive design, while more costly upfront, can give you better ROI in the long run by saving on maintenance costs. That said, a responsive design can lead to slightly slower load times for mobile and desktop users compared with separate sites that are optimized for their intended screen size.

Responsive Design3. Because a mobile site uses a separate domain, links shared from mobile browsers do not count as search link equity toward your main site. But since responsive design simply embeds new code on the back-end of your existing website, your company’s link equity is preserved, making responsive design a better choice for SEO.

4. It’s typically harder to add banner advertisements within a responsive design website. Banner images and banner-serving software haven’t quite caught up with responsive design techniques yet. If you don’t use banner ads, this is a moot difference.

5. Responsive design requires that you redevelop the front-end codebase of your existing website. Mobile is cheaper upfront, but you’ll have two separate front-end codebases to maintain, which as we mentioned earlier, may increase your maintenance costs. You’ll have to manage cross-linking and redirecting of users between your two sites, which might slow down your page-load speeds, too. A dedicated mobile site can be a good choice if it's too expensive to take on a website redesign project right now.

So, while we use responsive design here at Cultivate and we highly recommend that you build a responsive site into your comprehensive marketing plan, a mobile site can be a reasonable interim solution — better than taking no action at all — to accommodate all those folks out there who are viewing your site on a mobile device.

Wanna see a cool trick? Go to our homepage and shrink your browser window to about the size of a phone, and watch our website automatically adjust and adapt to the new screen size. You can have that, too, with responsive web design. Read 10 Reasons Your Site Needs Responsive Web Design for details on how to get started.