Many businesses wisely make reaching their audience on mobile devices a priority, and they often accomplish this by creating a separate website for smaller screens or devices. However, new technology and developments in web design have led to a much more efficient and effective way to create mobile-friendly websites called responsive design. This new method of building websites gives mobile visitors a seamless and positive experience on a single website rather than switching between different websites tailored to different screen sizes. For most businesses, a responsive website is the best option for reaching mobile visitors because they are easier to maintain, easier to use, and built to last regardless of future changes in technology.

Let’s take a closer look at three common options for mobile websites:

Responsive Website

(example: bostonglobe.com)

  • One website that adapts to the screen size of every device, from desktop computer down to the smallest phone.
  • Significantly easier to maintain because there’s only one site to update rather than two or three.
  • Typically, responsive websites maintain their visual brand identity better than mobile apps. This helps maintain brand standards and makes sure the important content of the website stays in focus.
  • Future-proof and long lasting. Because responsive sites are built to work across any screen size and device, they are less likely to have to be thrown out and rebuilt when technology changes.

Traditional Non-Responsive Site

(example: apple.com)

  • Looks exactly the same on every screen.
  • Requires slightly less development time than a responsive site.
  • Usable on mobile devices, but it can be difficult to navigate and slow to load for mobile users.

Mobile Application Suite

(example: m.facebook.com)

  • Two or three separate websites for desktop, tablet, and smaller devices.
  • Sometimes has to be customized for each mobile operating system (iOS, Android, etc.)
  • Harder to maintain. Because there are several sites, each one has to be maintained separately.
  • Visual identity is often broken by distracting mobile interface clutter, hurting the brand perception and taking the focus away from the content of the site.
  • Visitors who have had bad experiences with sites like this in the past may avoid the site even if it works well.

Any of these options could be right for your business, but responsive websites are the most recent development and are quickly gaining respect as a standard across the web. There are two main criteria for knowing when you’re ready for a responsive website.

  1. Are you getting mobile traffic to your current site, or do you expect your target market to be accessing your information from a mobile device? Look at your site analytics and figure out how much mobile traffic you’re getting. If between 5-20% of your website users are on a mobile device, not having a site that works well for them is like having a retail store and making it more difficult for those customers to navigate or even enter the store. That’s not a good policy for a retail store, and it’s not a good policy for a website.
  2. Does a responsive site fit in line with your overall brand strategy and business goals? Although a responsive website is an exciting and valuable potential investment, it’s important to make sure it fits the needs of your business and your market. Consider if it’s a priority or if there’s something else you should be focusing on at this time. You can determine this by doing a thorough analysis of your business plan yourself or by consulting with a professional brand consultant or advertising agency.