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Which is Better: Responsive Design or a Mobile Website?

Note: If you are reading this post in 2018 or later, please note responsive is now the norm. If you are still using a separate mobile website, STOP. 

Raleigh business owners asking for an update to their website know that mobile is a must. But many owners ask whether they should choose to have a mobile website or go with responsive website design.

Answer:Responsive. In most cases, responsive design is the smarter move.

What is the difference between a mobile website and responsive design?
Let’s back up a minute and provide definitions for those of you who are already confused.

A mobile website is a separate URL from your regular company website. Users on mobile devices will be directed to that site instead of the regular version. The mobile site is coded to appear differently for each known mobile device’s screen size.

Responsive design means that your regular website is seen on all devices and screen sizes, but is coded to reconfigure to fit the person’s screen width, no matter the device size.

Mobile Sites versus Responsive Design

Why choose the responsive design?
Because it’s better, that’s why. Don’t trust marketers? Can’t really blame you. OK, here are some actual reasons:

1. Search engine optimization – (Yep, the marketer’s favorite acronym strikes again.) A mobile site is a separate website, with a different URL. By creating a separate site for mobile devices, you are splitting your SEO efforts, and your mobile site is out there competing with other websites. To make sure Google sees them as the “same” website, the mobile version must be connected on the back end — on every single page. Talk about a big pain in the rear, especially if your coder screws something up! (Of course, that would never happen to you.)

2. Easier to maintain – Content you create for two different sites must be maintained separately. And if the content is significantly different, search engines won’t believe you when you say it’s really the same as the main site (see that first point above that you skipped). Plus, despite increasing numbers, most companies see that mobile sites draw less traffic and therefore are often pushed to the back burner when it comes to updates or changes. Hate to be Captain Obvious, but that’s not really the best strategy. If your site is responsive, all changes will show up in both places.

3. Uniform content – The content you present to visitors should essentially be the same whether someone visits you via desktop, laptop, tablet, phone, wearable or via the computer in their refrigerator. (Yes, that’s a thing now.) While mobile visitors benefit from a different layout, that can be achieved using responsive web design.

4. Responsive works on all sizes – When set up properly, responsive web design not only looks great on all mobile devices but on all screen sizes. That means if someone resizes his/her browser on a desktop, the site will resize and rearrange accordingly, flowing nicely into the new configuration. (The change looks really slick.) Go to some of your favorite websites right now and change your browser size to see if the site is responsive.

See, we really do have good reasons for advocating responsive design. But if you want to ask us more questions, send them our way via TwitterFacebook or plain ole email at info [at] deptofmarketing.com.