How does your website look on a smartphone? How about a tablet? Use Screenfly to test multiple devices, all in from one browser window.
Imagine a world with only one mobile device manufacturer – a company that upholds rigid standards for smartphones and tablets (even some phablets and TVs too). For months at a time only one screen size and resolution is made available per type of device. Eventual upgrades are announced ahead of time, with detailed documentation made available for designers and developers to get familiar with.
Chances are, such a scenario would doubtfully produce the need for responsive web design techniques. Mobile websites, however, would be in high demand, especially for businesses that want to reach the widest possible audience. What is the difference then between mobile websites and responsive websites? The difference is significant.
Probably the most important difference is the site’s domain name. Whereas a responsively designed website is simply any site with accordingly modified code, a mobile site is a separate entity which requires a separate domain name such as site.com/mobile, or a subdomain such as m.site.com. Search giants “recommend” avoiding placing mobile versions of a website under a separate domain, also noting decreased performance of subdomain solutions due to longer page loading times. Take some time to consider all options, talk to the team, and read through this simple guide on Multi-screen Consumers.
A responsive design approach, on the other hand is meant to unify the user experience across multiple devices and simplify maintenance and content creation. Probably the strongest attribute of such an approach is how pro-active it is. Responsive websites anticipate new screen sizes, new mobile devices and other changes in technology. Of course, as any method, responsive design has it’s limitations—primary being a business’ need to design experiences or content highly customized to a user scenario, as described in the case of LinkedIn in this Forbes article.
Considering that 15% of all internet traffic is coming from mobile, as well as that, according to Google, 61% of those mobile users would turn to a competitor’s website if their mobile experience was subpar, then looking good online means looking good on mobile. So, do you want to look good online? Think of the following:
- What type of content will be delivered to the mobile screen, and how is it different from the desktop experience. If it’s the exact same content, then infuse your website with responsive design.
- If it’s a separate mobile site you’ve settled on, which is generally less expensive to implement, who will manage the content between the two entities and how will it be connected.
Consequently, businesses large and small will continue to adapt their brands and, if they want to win customers, their branded websites to ever-changing screen sizes and devices. That is until we do have a technology utopia.