How to Determine The Best Mobile Strategy For Your Website: Responsive Design vs. Custom Mobile Site

Do you want your mobile site to operate separately from your current website? If you’re starting from scratch, wouldn’t it be more efficient to build a site that could act as both a mobile and desktop site? Maybe your current site could be retrofitted to be more mobile friendly? One notion is that projected ROI should dictate the approach to cross-device design. However, I can think of many scenarios in which there may be a business case for a separate approach to mobile. Let’s take a look at some of these cases…

If you’re starting with an existing site featuring a ton of content, then going the route of creating a separate mobile site makes sense. However, if you’re designing a site from scratch, then choosing the responsive route may present a better option.

What is Responsive Design?

Responsive web design is a layout that will automatically adapt to different screen sizes. Responsive design is accomplished using CSS3 media queries with fluid proportion-based grids to adapt the layout to the viewing environment and uses flexible images. As a result, users across a broad range of devices and browsers will have access to a single source of content that is easy to digest and navigate with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling.

What is a Separate Mobile Site?

A custom mobile site is specifically designed for the small screens of mobile phones. Queries to a website include the type of browser being used and when a request from a mobile browser is made, the site redirects it to its mobile counterpart for a more streamlined surfing experience.

Lets look at the pros and cons of each route:

Pros of Responsive Design:

  • Use one codebase and the same content throughout
  • Adaptively render your site based on screen size
  • Less worry about device support

Cons of Responsive Design:

  • Unseen elements still render, using up bandwidth
  • May not serve mobile users needs

Pros of Custom Mobile Site:

  • Easier and faster to implement for an existing site
  • Displays only the most essential information to mobile users

Cons of Custom Mobile Site:

  • Separate content will need to be maintained
  • Much harder to future-proof

The best experience for the user should dictate this decision. Your customers deserve an optimal browsing experience. Many businesses approach their decision making with their own business goals (ROI) in mind and may not be serving the needs of the customer. Responsive or custom mobile site, do what’s best for the customer.

Take a look at another post on Digital Design for Multiple Screen Sizes

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