Responsive vs. Mobile sites

So there’s been two schools of thought about designing a website that’s friendly for mobile devices over the past year or so. There’s Camp Responsive and Camp Mobile. What’s the difference?

A mobile site is a separate site designed to work best with smart phone browsing. Maybe you don’t feel your whole website needs to be available on a phone. Possibly, you feel if a user would be using their phone and looking at your site, they would be looking for a specific piece of your site. For example, if your site is about your public performances, you might feel the schedule and venues is really the only thing somebody would want to see easily. Everything else could be on the main site. The main drawbacks are: it’s a separate site to maintain and tracking can get a little crazy.

A responsive site is the same site that reformats itself as a response to what’s being used to view the site. The idea is the entire site is viewable without having to pinch and zoom to see the content. In some cases, this is better. Almost any service or online store would be a good example here. If a user is thinking about buying from you or hiring you, it would make sense to be able to present all of your information or items. Again, the idea being to present it with minimal effort to the user. The main drawbacks here are that it can be difficult to get the design to layout exactly as you want and although the content will be easily read, the user experience (referred to as UX by the techies) can become a bit wonky (referred to as less the desirable by the aforementioned techies).

romney-obamaInterestingly, both candidates in the Presidential Race chose a different approach. Obama went with a responsive design, Romney with a separate mobile version. Both were criticized. The former made for almost too much information (causing very long pages and scrolling), while the latter left the viewers wanting more. I found the whole article fascinating, and you can read more about it at Smashing Magazine’s website.

What do we like? Both. Dotman Design has done both. If your site is built on a Content Management System (CMS such as Word Press, Joomla!) and current, chances are there are some really great pluggins available to help make your site pretty responsive. In terms of ROI, this may be the way to go. If your audience has a strong mobile usage, a dedicated mobile version could be the better choice.

If you need some help figuring out what you might want to do, contact us.

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