Mobile Design vs. Responsive Design

May 2, 2013

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Hmmm Which Dessert…

We are often asked about mobile websites or web design that is mobile friendly. This subject is important because for small businesses in local markets, many of their customers and prospects are accessing their websites via mobile devices. So the question begs…

Which version of the mobile web should I adopt?



Straight From Google

Google has taken a keen interest in the mobile web, a faster web and uses all the elements of a great web experience in determining rankings etc.

Google on ‘Responsive Web Design’

Our recommendation for smartphone-optimized sites is to use responsive web design, which means you have one site to serve all devices. If your website uses responsive web design as recommended, be sure to test your website on a variety of tablets to make sure it serves them well too. Remember, just like for smartphones, there are a variety of device sizes and screen resolutions to test.
Google recommends webmasters follow the industry best practice of using responsive web design, namely serving the same HTML for all devices and using only CSS media queries to decide the rendering on each device.
If responsive design is not the best option to serve your users, Google supports having your content being served using different HTML. The different HTML can be on the same URL or on different URLs, and Googlebot can handle both setups appropriately if you follow our recommendations.

Google on ‘Designing for Tablets’

Tablets offer a browsing experience that can be as rich as any desktop or laptop machine, in a more mobile, lightweight, and generally more convenient package. This means that, unless you offer tablet-optimized content, users expect to see your desktop site rather than your site’s smartphone site.

For more info visit the Google webmaster blog

Responsive Websites vs. Mobile Websites

Packages   Mobile Site Responsive
Content Different Based on Device Same content redistributed
Size Smaller niche content and size Same content size as desktop
Load Speed Fast – optimized for mobile Same as desktop
Features Feature rich – designed for mobile Same features as desktop – missing mobile features
UI and UX Custom experience Custom experience with some limitations
Visual Appeal Custom visuals Custom visuals with some limitations
Sharing Links More difficult Easy – all the same
SEO Friendly Not as Google friendly Google recommended
Cost Expensive – like developing two websites Not as expensive as two sites
Tracking Separate tracking – treated as a different site and analytics separated Same tracking and analytics
Management More challenging – two full websites Easier – one website with multiple views
Cutting Edge Accessing the mobile world’s technology Restricted to the desktop world’s technology
GPS / Geo-Location Power to Enable Cannot connect to GPS

What the Responsive Haters Say –

Brian Fling, author of the book Mobile Design and Development, puts it this way:

“Take an airline website, for example. Simply taking the web experience and trying to put it on a small screen doesn’t help the user at all; in fact, it has the opposite effect. If the user is on the way to the airport and needs to check whether a flight is delayed, the last thing your user has time to do is scroll around to find where to check flight times. If you’ve found yourself racing to make a flight and needing to find your flight information, such as times, gate, etc., you need that information quickly.”

Thinking Points

Small Business vs. Enterprise: Instead of considering which version is better, consider which one is more adapted to your size of business and caters best to your target audience.

User Engagement: At what level do the users that you interact with online need to engage with you online and specifically on mobile? How much time will they spend each month on your mobile site? How would you be able to facilitate their engagement.

Small Businesses Need a Mobile Strategy

marketingmanagedgraphicmed Death of Startups: The Autopsy

  • Free Mobile Strategy – Our team of strategy consultants put together mobile strategies for small businesses for free.
  • Consider All 5 Factors – With the 5 factor model that we enjoy, we use our revolutionary diagnosis tools to evaluate your marketing and put a finite plan in place to get you to your end game.
  • Understand Mobile Costs: The costs of mobile are part of an overall strategy. For example, if you develop a mobile specific website, the costs to host, maintain, secure and update that mobile website will be on top of your desktop websites.

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