Mobile Site Or Responsive Design

screenshot of of mobile siteYear over year mobile traffic to has increased by a WHOPPING 387% while mobile’s share of total traffic now stands at 7%. Based on that data, and the fact that I’ve been writing about the importance of the mobile web since 2009 I decided it’s time to eat my own dog food and updated this site to a responsive design for mobile.

Building a mobile friendly site

There are two options for building a mobile site:

  • Building a separate mobile site  in addition to your desktop experience. Based on the device the user may be redirected to the mobile version which resides on a sub-domain like
  • Having a responsive design where the website automatically reformats based on the device. No sub-domains required.

Two different ways to go mobile and based on what I’ve heard at conferences there’s not a consensus on the best course of action. So what I will try to do is give you some reasons why you might choose one over the other based on your unique business needs.

Choose a mobile strategy based on business needs

  1.  The most important consideration is user experience. Complete optimization flexibility requires the ability to change source order, media, URL structures and application design. Having that type of control is easier with a separate mobile template, while responsive design only changes the presentation of existing content using CSS.
  2. How important is ease of updating? Updates to content on a responsive design take effect immediately across all devices. Depending on the technology solution chosen it  may require more effort to synch the content across separate mobile and desktop versions.
  3. Search engine optimization. Duplicate content issues are less of an issue with responsive designs. Avoiding that penalty will require adding a canonical tag to all your mobile pages which tells search engines to index only the desktop version of that page.
  4. Speed to market and development costs. This largely depends on the size of the website. It’s much easier to implement responsive designs on smaller business sites than it is for large scale commercial sites.
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