You may have been reading or hearing about mobile or responsive websites recently and wondering what the difference is between them. If you own or run a website, this is an important distinction to know.
Both types of websites target users who are viewing your website on a device other than a PC (i.e. smart phone, tablet). As more and more people use their smart phones and tablets to browse the internet, you want to be sure that you have a website that looks good on those devices. A few years ago the worry was whether your website would even display on these devices, now we want our website to not only display, but look like it was designed specifically for those mobile devices.
A mobile website is a separate version(s) of your website which is designed for a specific screen size(s). With your mobile version, you have most likely designed it for 1 or 2 specific screen sizes, and when updating your content you will have to change each version. Responsive websites transform themselves and rearrange content so that they look good on all mobile devices as well as your PC.
It may seem like a no-brainer that responsive websites are the best choice. These websites are able to accommodate any future devices and new screen sizes, and you will only need to maintain one version of your content.
There are some reasons for having a mobile version of your website though.
- It may not be in your budget to re-write your entire website into a responsive version at this time.
- You need a partial or smaller website version up in a hurry as your website site is not performing well in mobile devices.
- You may be running a promotion aimed specifically at mobile users, so you build a website that can only be seen by users on the targeted devices (responsive website can also do this).
If you are going to go for a mobile website, be mindful of duplicate content. Google Webmaster Tools will help you to sort out any conflicts.
Long term though, a responsive web design is your best solution. It is quicker to update and manage content, it will accommodate any existing or future screen size, search engines are happy, and over time this is the cost-effective choice.