Choosing a solution for optimising your website for mobile is difficult. It’s even more difficult now that traffic is not only split between desktop and mobile, but many other devices and screen sizes. At Ireckon, we prefer responsive web design as the best way to provide an optimised website not only for mobile, but the whole spectrum of devices and screen sizes.
So why should you choose a responsive website over the other popular solution, a mobile only website? Here are some of the main factors we think you should take into account.
If you’re only thinking about optimizing your website for desktop and mobile, you’re already falling behind. There are already a lot of tablet devices on the market and the lines between a tablet and a mobile phone are being blurred. There are phones the size of a small tablet and small tablets the size of a phone. And that’s just the devices we have today. As users are visiting our sites with more and more varied screen sizes, having a website that works on all of them is more important.
If you choose to have a website optimized for desktop, and a separate website for mobile, what happens when your traffic demands another optimized experience? You could create another website for tablets, but then what happens if traffic from televisions grows? The more separate websites you have, the harder it becomes to adapt to change and not confuse your users. With a responsive website however, even if your website isn’t optimized for a new screen size, you can build on what you already have. By having one website and adapting the design as is needed, you are prepared for wherever your users go.
Users want the same functionality and content no matter what device they are using. They also start tasks on one device and finish them on another. If you cut down functionality or content for mobile users and they can’t find what they are looking for, they will probably leave. This doesn’t mean you can’t optimise the layout of the website for different devices. For example, having the most used navigation items on mobile at the top and in a different position on large screens is something you can do with a mobile only website or a responsive design website. However, having the same content and functionality on a separate desktop and mobile website is more difficult than on one website with a responsive design. This can also lead to problems with redirecting users who go to a URL on the desktop site using a mobile device to the same content on the mobile site. This particular problem can be difficult to solve and will frustrate your users if it isn’t perfect. The worst example of this is when mobile users are redirected to the homepage of the desktop website, or even a message that says that content is not available for mobile.
A separate mobile website can be very attractive when it comes to cost. Because web developers are already good at building websites for one device, it’s usually cheaper to get a new, separate website for mobile up and running. But the cost of a website does not end there. You also have to take into account the cost of maintenance, adding new features, the time it takes to add content and any other website you might want to build for other devices later. If you want to redesign your websites in the future, you then have the cost of redesigning multiple websites.
With a responsive design the upfront cost might be higher because you will be redesigning for multiple devices, not just mobile, but you won’t have to worry about adding an optimized solution for tablet in the future either, because it can be taken into account at the same time. A responsive redesign can also be done in stages. You could target content or functionality on your website that gets the most mobile traffic and start there.
So if you need a mobile optimised solution for your website (and you do), make sure you take these factors into account.