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Mobile VS. Responsive: An In-Depth Look

The growing trend of smartphone and tablet use has boosted the importance and popularity of websites tailored for mobile devices. According to Morgan Stanley mobile internet will overtake desktop internet by 2014. It’s a new challenge for companies as regular websites do not perform well in mobile. A website that is not adjusted for mobile use is difficult to browse, it’s slow and leaves a bad impression of the business. Nearly half of mobile web users are unlikely to return to a website that they had trouble accessing from their phone, and 57% are unlikely to recommend the site (Compuware).

Every business should think about their mobile website to ensure sustainable development. There are basically two alternatives: a custom made mobile website or responsive web design. What are they, and how do you choose the right one for your company?

What is a Mobile website?
A Mobile website is a website with reduced capacity and graphics that are adjusted for a smaller mobile screen. Only the most important information is displayed in mobile web that’s valuable for a person on a move i.e. phone number, location, prices, pictures, reservation etc. Mobile web is easy to browse and navigate. The custom made solution enables to maintain the company’s brand and visual identity.

What is responsive web design?
Responsive web design uses CSS that enables adapting the web content according to screen size.This means that the webpage has no standard size but the content is relocated according to the screen size. This ensures the page is convenient to use no matter of the device and the content remains the same for any device.

The differences between mobile websites and responsive web design
Mobile web and responsive web design have strong principal differences that give advantages and disadvantages for both solutions.

The advantages of mobile websites
•    Custom web design – Custom made design enables to create content according to company’s needs, whether it’s optimizing the content or creating a completely new structure and content.
•    Adjusted content – Internet consumption via phone has usually different objectives than desktop internet use. Long descriptions and loads of content do not serve the purpose as mobile users want fast information. The content of a regular webpage is usually between 250-400 words, but for mobile web the content is preferably about 70-100 words.  Mobile websites allow for modifying content so that a mobile user gets only the most important information.
•    Completely different content – Mobile websites enable not only to modify the content, but also allow for creating content that is meant only for mobile users, like special offers, discount coupons or other information.
•    Easy navigation – The mobile website structure is easy and information easily found. In case of responsive web the design remains the same as regular web, which means uncomfortable browsing for user. The information is distributed impractically, for example there are separate pages for contact info, team and location. Mobile web allows putting them all on the same page.

The disadvantages of Mobile websites
•    Separate content management – Mobile web requires separate content management.
•    Less information – A mobile website is usually made to offer better user experience with less information. Mobile internet usage is becoming the only internet source for many people, which makes the content too compressed for the actual needs of a mobile user.

The advantages of Responsive websites
•    Easy content management – Responsive design does not require separate content managing for a mobile version.
•    Adaptive content replacement – The objective of a responsive web design is to make the website universal, no matter the device used. The website rearranges itself according to the screen resolution. The picture sizes also change. It’s universal and comfortable solution.
•    Complete information for users – The content offers the same quality for mobile users, tablet users and desktop internet users. If a visitor wants to find a specific article or other information it’s easily found the same way for each device.
•    Familiar navigation – responsive web rearranges the way information is displayed but it doesn’t change the structure- it means the information is found the familiar way.

The disadvantages of Responsive websites
•    Complex development – Responsive can be very difficult to code properly, which may lend to some extra web development expenses.

How to choose?
Now that you know both characteristics it’s possible to consider the right solution for your company. The first thing to consider is the needs of your customers. What information your clients may seek from your mobile website? A local car workshop webpage would probably just need fast contact, location and service information. In this case a mobile website is more appropriate solution as it offers fast contact but responsive has too much noise. In comparison a news release is all about articles that must be available in full length for mobile users. A responsive web design offers the same quality with better browsing and content management.

A Mobile website is a better solution if:
•    Visitors have different objectives for mobile internet usage, for example fast contact information, location etc.
•    You have different information for mobile users and desktop users.
•    The load time matters.

Responsive web design is a better solution if:
•    You have a lot of information that cannot be modified for mobile users.
•    You have a simple website that does not require separate content for mobile.
•    Your website must offer the same quality for desktop and mobile users.

A mobile-ready website is a must-have and its importance is only growing as the technology develops. A growing and sustainable company needs a mobile adjusted website whether it’s a custom made mobile web or responsive web design. Choosing the best alternative for your business depends on your company’s and your client’s needs. Start creating your mobile web today!

Know what your site looks like on mobile? Find out now!

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About Marc
Marc Ohmann is president of Digital Solutions, Inc in Minneapolis. Digital Solutions is the company behind the MDWebPro blog and tool set. Marc was a computer science and engineering student at the University of Minnesota in 1999 when he started Digital Solutions. Marc, now a husband and father of 3, greatly enjoys the clients and creativity he is involved in each day through Digital Solutions. Follow Marc on Twitter @marcohmann and @MDWebPro and also on Google Plus

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