Recent statistics have found that one-fifth of web traffic is viewed from either a mobile or tablet device at the end of the first quarter of 2013. This is double the amount of the traffic at the same period last year, which means more people are browsing the Internet from their mobile devices. It is necessary for websites to be mobile friendly and have content specifically formatted for those devices.
There are two ways to have a mobile friendly site – a mobile website or a mobile responsive site. Believe it or not, there is an argument among web-developers as to the merits of each.
A Mobile Site
This type of website is the earliest type of mobile sites. This is a different site with content specifically designed for mobile viewing alone. It would often have its own URL such as m.domain.com, while the full site will be at www.domain.com. Companies like Yahoo! utilised sites like these. This site may have a totally different look and feel from the original website, unless a lot of care was taken to create both sites similarly.
A mobile site tends to load faster because the content is specifically designed for mobile devices. You also have full control of the elements of the design so you can have the look and layout specifically the way you want it, regardless of what the main website has.
The drawback to the mobile site is that you have two different sites, with different code-bases. If you need to make changes to the main site, then the developers may also need to make changes to the mobile site, and in some cases, the developers may be different. You may end up having different experiences on both because of that. Also, it becomes more costly the more changes that are required.
A Mobile Responsive Site
A mobile responsive site is a website that automatically adjusts parameters to suite the device viewing display size. So you may have code within the main site that adjusts the layout of your dividers and size of your fonts as the screen size goes down.
A responsive site has the same look and feel as the main site, because it is the main site; it’s the same design elements, only formatted for a different screen. Because of the adaptive nature, the screen can be adjusted for multiple screen sizes, so one layout for desktop, another for mobile, and another for in-between devices such as tablets. Maintenance is easy because it’s only one code base that is being maintained, and only one developer is usually required.
The disadvantages of the responsive site are that is takes longer to load than a mobile site, and more expensive to develop initially. The site takes longer because it’s the main site being loaded and then resized and laid out on the screen. And because a responsive site takes more time to develop, the cost may be higher, but it will be cheaper to maintain.
Another disadvantage is that you have less control of the layout for different screens. For example, if you have a search for your side in your sidebar for a desktop display, on a mobile the search bar may be at the bottom, which may not be effective.
This website has a mobile site. If you view it on a mobile screen, it’s totally different to the main site. To be honest, I only found out about the mobile responsive site when redesigning my personal website – www.sachinganpat.com. If you view that site on a mobile, you will see it looks almost the same, just all the elements one under the other. If you re-size the browser you will see how the elements move to fit it.
So what should you do?
If you cater mainly to mobile users, then it may be worthwhile to have a mobile site, however, given the breadth of devices browsing the web now, plus the bandwidth speeds and capabilities of these devices, having a mobile responsive site is the best way forward.
It’s also important to note that Google has stated that mobile responsive sites should be the preferred choice of web designers. So if you’re into Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), then that’s added motivation.
If you can’t change your site right now, don’t make it a problem. Most mobile browsers try as best as possible to allow web content to be viewed. It’s still a good practice to check how your website is displayed on the different screens.
Your website is your image, and you want to look good no matter what.