Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years, you are fully aware of the current state of smartphone domination over humanity in the developed world. Smartphones have become our go-to resource for communication, information and entertainment at our fingertips. For webmasters, this means adjusting the user experience to fit a phone-sized screen. Whether you have a business website, a blog or an online store, you must adapt your content and your code to the new medium. See our article about responsive design for more on this.

If you’re not a professional web designer or developer, however, it can be tricky to decide just how to implement these changes to your site. Here, we break down a couple of options, Mobile sites vs. Responsive sites.

Mobile Sites:

  • Mobile sites exist separately from your main site. There is a nifty little ‘device detection code’ that will determine where the user is accessing your site from and direct them accordingly.
  • Mobile sites will be set up differently from your main site. It is targeted to the mobile user, so it will have less information and typically be more simple and sparse in content and detail.
  • Mobile sites operate from a separate code base from your main site, and are often developed in mobile specific platforms.
  • Caveats: Two sites and two code bases means twice the work. It can be more difficult to manage two sites and maintain a cohesive branding and user experience. Every time you update content or functionality on one site, you will have to repeat for the other site.

Responsive Sites:

  • A responsive site will try to consider the optimal user experience for any user, whether a desktop, tablet or smartphone, and renders the appropriate content layout for a user’s device.
  • The main difference is that the responsive site will present alternative site layouts and content from the same code base, rather than sending the user to a completely separate mobile specific site.
  • In addition to providing a great desktop experience, a responsive website can utilize additional functionalities that will benefit on-the-go users as well, such as the ability to make phone calls directly from the site and access a map.
  • Caveats: Creating an ideal user experience for multiple devices requires skill, expertise and creativity.

To summarize, consider the responsive site the all–in-one, convertible option. In most cases, we recommend implementing responsive design rather than creating a separate mobile site simply because it will tend to reduce the long term workload, maintenance and costs for the website owner. A skilled responsive website development team can rise to the challenge and create a functional, user-friendly responsive website that will wow on all devices. Thinking about updating your website? Talk to us!