Why Responsive Websites Trump Dedicated Mobile Sites

If you’re in the market for a website, you’ve probably determined that it needs to work on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. There are two general approaches to meet your website’s mobile needs: A dedicated mobile website or a responsive website.

What is a dedicated mobile website?

A dedicated mobile website uses code to determine what type of device your viewer is viewing the website on, and then redirects them to a website that is dedicated for those devices.

Commonly, this method detects if your device is a desktop or a mobile device. This approach allows you to cater each site specifically to the group devices it is being used on. While this sounds great, detection isn’t foolproof, leaving some of your mobile users looking at the wrong version of your website. Along with that, you’ll need to maintain two or more websites, meaning you will need to update content on each of those websites and add features to each website as time goes on.

What is responsive web design?

Responsive design is a term that was made popular by Ethan Marcotte. Essentially, responsive web design uses one code base, then caters the viewing experience to the device it is being viewed on. Instead of multiple sites for each device, you have one that responds to the size of the viewport (viewport is the window where the website is being displayed).

What about file sizes?

In a previous post we wrote about the mobile web, we mentioned that file sizes would be a concern when using a responsive approach. Thanks to the great web development community, there are now a number of tools that help solve this, such as Scott Jehl’s PictureFill, which detects the viewport size then provides appropriately sized images to avoid sending large hi-res images to smaller screens.

What does Google think?

Google went on record stating that their official recommended configuration for mobile websites was responsive design. Like Google, we agree. One code base is easier to maintain and also reduces duplicate content, which will actually hurt your SEO efforts.

Is responsive only for tablets and phones?

With our ever-changing devices, one space you may not have yet considered are Smart TVs. Every major TV developer has been building web browsers right into their new TVs, and while I haven’t seen any hard usage statistics, I think its safe to say that people will browse the internet from their couch in the near future. Again, Google not only believes in this, but has created technology to smooth the process. Their ChromeCast device, an affordable dongle that plugs into an HDMI port has a feature that makes it easier than ever to surf the net from your couch, using your laptop, smartphone or tablet as a remote!

Building a responsive website will make it incredibly easy to add layout options to make use of these larger screens.