A Dedicated Mobile Site compared to a responsive site

Separate Mobile Sites vs Responsive Website Design, Part 2

It’s extremely important to have a working mobile site in a world where more and more people are using mobile devices to search. Many people won’t even so much as use websites that lack mobile capability. As the saying goes, first impressions are everything, and you have to use the first few seconds of someone viewing your site to make a good impression. If the website does not work on mobile, the majority of mobile viewers will back out. There are a couple different types of mobile websites, each with their own advantages and disadvantages, and different approaches to each of them. In our last article, we went over responsive websites and some of what makes them unique. Now, we will be going over dedicated mobile websites, how to use them effectively, and some key ways they differ from responsive websites.

Device-Specific Features

Mobile sites are different from responsive websites in the fact that they usually utilize different code, and redirect to a different site altogether. Sometimes they can take advantage of “responsive” code to rearrange the site size to fit it to the screen, but it is normally not to the same extent as a pure responsive site would. Mobile sites are especially useful, and almost necessary, doubly so for feature-heavy websites. Because not all content works on mobile devices, the content from the desktop version disappears in favor of something that will work on mobile. And for websites whose design on their desktop version would limit the user experience, having a separate mobile website can be useful.

Unrestrained Desktop Sites

When designing a responsive website, the site has to be able to work across all devices, which means sticking with jQuery, HTML5, CSS3 and other similar cross-platform code. But with a mobile website, you don’t need to limit the power of your desktop version. If any features don’t work, you will be able to make a replacement. If you need to have the same features for your mobile users as you do your desktop users, there is a solution still. You can have the basics available on your mobile site, but for any features or tabs not available to mobile, you can have them redirect to a companion mobile phone app. This way, you will be able to have everything available without having to find a way to make it work in a browser.

Less Arduous Testing

Another potential pitfall of responsive websites is the need to test new features on all kinds of devices. While basic edits like changes to text, new images or new blogs can take less work to implement with a responsive vs a mobile site, any big changes require testing across all devices again. Any interface changes to the desktop site will still need testing to make sure they work on mobile. And because the added features must take all devices into account, it is possible that they will run slower on a given device because they are not optimized for it. Finally, since 3rd party services do not always make mobile-friendly content, you oftentimes will have certain features that become broken on a responsive site.

Either way, developers often need to strike a balance. Elements of both, and the ability to block certain content off mobile for responsive design will likely be needed to make it work.

design, mobile-first
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