Mobile Website Design: Responsive Or Separate?

We’re going to assume that you know you need to have a mobile website designed for your business — there’s lots of blog posts and articles out there that can explain why if you’re not already convinced. This isn’t about selling you on the idea of a mobile site, it’s about helping you decide what kind of mobile site you need. There are two basic options: reprogramming your existing (desktop-oriented website) so it’s viable on a mobile device, or creating an entirely new website for the mobile crowd.

The advantages of each are profound.

Responsive Websites
A responsive website is a single site on a single URL that is meticulously programmed to show up differently on a mobile device than it does on a desktop site. It does this through a process called a ‘media query’, where it basically asks the browser that’s accessing the site a bunch of questions about the device that the browser is running on, including questions about the device’s screen size.

The responsive website takes the information it learns and adjusts the elements it displays accordingly, removing most of them and retaining only the ones that are the most critical for a user to see. It also adds elements as necessary at certain sizes — so, for example, a video rental site might retain the “search for a video” and the “list of our available videos” areas, but take away the various categories like ‘drama’ and ‘romance’. Then, it would add a small link to the ‘categories’ page so the full functionality is retained but it’s broken up across several pages — much easier for a mobile device to browse on.

Separate Websites
A separate website is a completely different entity from the desktop site; they are utterly independent of one another. There are some significant downsides to a separate site, not the least of which is that it’s hardly efficient in terms of the cost of a whole second batch of website SEO. On the other hand, for sites where mobile users have a distinctly separate set of needs and wants out of a mobile device that they want from a desktop, a separate website can be a very useful tool.