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Should I Go With Responsive Design Vs. Mobile Site

Internet access is no longer confined to just desktops or laptops. According to Search Engine Land, more than 95% of people access the web from a mobile device. Although mobile devices make accessing the web much more convenient, sites that aren’t optimized for mobile viewing are often unresponsive on these devices. The font displays too small, some images don’t load and the screen has to be manipulated just fit the device. This causes users to click off of the page, which in turn increases the bounce rate. To avoid these issues, your website has to be optimized for mobile viewing. One way to do this is to use responsive design, another is to use a mobile site.

Responsive Web Design

A responsive website automatically responds to the browser that’s accessing it. When a person with a mobile device clicks on your website, the website displays perfectly on the device and all of the buttons respond to touch.

With  responsive websites, there’s no need to redirect users since the server registers the device type before the page even loads. In many cases, the viewer will be given the option of remaining on the mobile-friendly site or navigating to the full computer version.

There are a few significant differences between the responsive site and the regular site that you should know.

  • Responsive websites display a completely different format from the full site. The CTA buttons are much larger and are usually at the top or right of the page.
  • When you click into forms to enter numerical information, the number pad will appear rather than the entire keyboard.
  • The screen size automatically scales when the device rotates with a fluid layout.
  • Content is sometimes hidden on responsive sites to account for the screen size and user experience however good responsive sites shouldn’t remove / hide content but rather tailor it to the screen.

If you use mobile devices to access the web, you’ve probably seen a few responsive websites. As you notice, they are radically different from how the website would look on your PC, and it almost seems reminiscent of an app. No skeuomorphic design, just flat touch-friendly buttons and minimal images. Responsive websites use one code for all platforms and provide more options for user experience than regular sites.

Mobile Site

Most people think that responsive websites are the same thing as mobile sites, but there are some slight differences. For one, a mobile website works from a completely different code and URL (in most cases). When a person navigates to a mobile site, the server hosting the site, recognizes the user’s device and scales the site to fit the screen. People with already established websites may not want to re-code the page to be responsive, so they choose to adopt a mobile site instead. This gives them the freedom to create a user experience that works best for their current audience’s needs. Mobile sites use smaller files, so the pages may load quicker than a responsive site.

For the most part, mobile sites look identical to responsive sites, but the user experience is noticeably different. Mobile sites tend to focus on what the current audience wants to see, whereas responsive websites focus on giving the most important information to all users.

For the sake of optimization, Google recommends responsive websites over mobile sites. These sites rank better in SERPs and are more Google-friendly. On Google’s Developer page, they state that they fully support mobile websites that meet the following configurations:

  • Responsive websites (sites that use the same URLs on all devices), that serve the same HTML to all devices and using just CSS to change the page’s display.
  • Sites that dynamically serve all devices on the same set of URLs, with each URL serving a different HTML and CSS, depending on the user’s device.
  • Sites that have separate mobile and desktop URLs.

If a specific user experience is what you’re after, then a mobile site may be the way to go. However, if you’re looking to offer a more personalized approach to mobile web viewing then a responsive site is definitely a good bet. For SEO and SEM purposes, responsive websites offer more flexibility. So, if you’re looking to optimize your site, take Google’s advice and go responsive.

Otreva is a custom software product development company focusing on user experience, responsive web development, & mobile application development.

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224 Wyoming Ave. #100
Scranton, PA 18503

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