Responsive Web Design vs Dedicated Mobile Website

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In my previous article I discussed what is responsive web design and its benefits. Even though Responsive Web Design (RWD) is probably the easiest and least expensive way to create a website that displays correctly across all devices (ie desktop computers, tablets, smart phones) there are circumstances where creating a separate website makes better sense.

Disadvantages of Responsive Web Design (RWD)

1. Too much information

Mobile users want easy access to the most relevant information. With RWD all the information available on a desktop is also available on the mobile phone. This can be frustrating for mobile users who may have to scroll through several screens to find what they want.

Designing a separate(dedicated) mobile site enables you to display the most important information a person needs…fast.

Say you’re looking for a local restaurant on your smart phone and quickly want to find what’s on the menu and how to get there. In this case the website doesn’t need pages of content describing what the restaurant does, who the employees are, what the company is about, it’s terms of service and privacy policies. Instead a one page mobile site would be more appropriate that just contains a map, hours, address, tap to call button and a brief description of service/pricing.

2. Resized images

Responsive web design resizes images to the mobile device’s screen. The full image is downloaded on a mobile device then resized to fit the screen. This consumes unnecessary CPU and RAM.

3. Slow loading pages

Mobile phones usually have less speed compared to desktop computers because computers are built with more memory and contain fast harddrives . Responsive design doesn’t remove unused code. For example JavaScript or HTML code is still downloaded to your mobile device even though it is not necessary to display the information. This makes the mobile site load more slowly.

4. Different needs for mobile and desktop users

Although RWD resizes a website to fit any device it doesn’t make use of mobile features such as a tap to call phone number or allow geolocation…identifying the real-world geographic location of an object.

5. Search Engine Optimization

Mobile users use different keywords in comparison to regular desktop users. If your RWD site uses titles and descriptions that only cater to desktop users it will affect your search engine rankings and result in losing some of your potential customers.

A dedicated mobile website on a separate domain can be optimized to just target mobile users.

Read: 7 Ways To Create A Mobile Version Of Your Website

My recommendation

The type of mobile site you design depends on the search behavior of your customers. For example things like dining and night life, where 90% of the search volume comes from mobile devices a dedicated mobile site would be more appropriate because users just want the location and hours instead of a full blown site.

On the other hand a RWD site is sufficient for most online businesses because it only needs one URL, is relatively easy to design, saves time and you’ll be one step ahead of your competitors who probably don’t have a mobile version of their current site.

If your current website is not mobile compatible, consider a responsive design so you’ll stop losing visitors and sales.

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