Mobile Websites vs. Responsive Websites

Posted by GMI Blogger Posted in Uncategorized

Nov 26 2014 at 6:25am

A lot of people are very quick to scrap the idea of having a mobile website. Responsive websites seem to be preferred nowadays, and with the multitude of screen sizes websites need to cater for it’s quite justified. There is, however, a general lack of understanding in the region as to what the difference between the two are; hence, the decision of many to totally negate the idea of having one over the other

Wikipedia defines responsive web design as being  “an approach to web design aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).”[1]
Mobile vs Responsive Design

This is essentially a programmatic resizing of the layout, structure, and imagery of the website to fit the screen it’s being viewed on. The beauty of this approach is in the fact that you build a single website that’s viewable across a plethora of devices, by gracefully (if it’s done well) resizing and rescaling itself accordingly.

A mobile website, on the other hand can be considered the “old fashioned” way of doing things. It’s like having a second, smaller website where users are redirected to if detected to be coming from a mobile phone. Notice we said “mobile phone” and not “smart phone”? That’s because this approach really predates what we call smartphones today.

So, what’s the real concerning difference between the two? We’ve come across far too many people in the region that pick one over the other without really thinking about the implications.

A responsive website, in its most basic form, will take whatever content and imagery are viewable on the “larger” version of the website, and rescale them visually to fit smaller screens. A mobile website on the other hand is intended to cater to mobile phones exclusively, and typically offers content specific to those devices. Both approaches have their benefits, but from our experience we’ve seen that the best choice is to implement a mix of the two.

It’s a bit naïve to think that users are going to want the same exact content on every device. This may be true in some cases, but you need to really look into what content is most relevant to each screen size. For example, the content a user expects to browse through on his or her iPad could be quite different to the content they expect to see on their iPhone. The experiences can be quite different on both devices, and you really need to think about what’s most appropriate for each. With this in mind, having a responsive website takes care of most of the visual challenges (other than larger images sometimes looking quite ridiculous when scaled down). You’ll need to then programmatically try to alter what content is visible on each group of screen sizes

There is no cut-and-paste approach to what works best. It all boils down to what kind of a budget you have, how much time you want to invest in tailoring your content to users, and what devices your audience in particular typically uses. Regardless of which approach you take, don’t think you’re done. Keep your eyes on the analytics. Times change and devices do too. As your audience adapts to new or varying screen sizes and user experiences, you need to as well.

There’s plenty more to consider in this area. We’ve simplified a few key points for the sake of this article; however, it’s advisable to have a sit-down with one of our strategists to discuss this in a lot more detail. Don’t neglect the importance of any device. Technology changes rapidly, and it’s those who adapt with it that accomplish the most. Give us a call today to discuss how we can support your organizational goals.

[1] Wikipedia as on November 24, 2014
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