Let me start by saying that making a mobile or responsive website is hard! No longer is it just about the web browser wars, a phrase that for so long has been a thorn in the side of good designers and front end developers everywhere. It's about much, much more.
If you're not familiar with the "web browser wars", it's a terminology used to describe the battle of numerous emerging web browsers to capitalize their market share during the past 10 years. As web standards continued to evolve more browsers started to embrace those standards making the task of replicating a design on the web browsers easier. Then in 2007, the iPhone came along, followed by Android and the iPad and shortly there after an explosion of handheld smartphones and mobile tablets with an array of new design challenges.
Just a few short years ago, the options were limited and your only options were to either not have a mobile site or create a completely separate mobile site. Today, you can still go the mobile website route but you can also build a responsive website that will allow both your desktop and mobile site to be managed through one system. In essence, a responsive site is really only one website. With some additional CSS coding, the same content will displayed eloquently across a number of different devices. Both the mobile site and responsive site options have their pros and cons. We'll take a look at those below.
- Great for mobile based needs like directions, e-commerce, phone calls
- Using web based tools can be built pretty quickly and at a lower cost
- Ability to deliver only what is most relevant
- Easier to integrate with phone functions
- Redirect user to mobile site
- Not easy to update
- Can be difficult to add conversion or tracking codes
- No mobile URL redirects
- Creates a uniformed brand experience across all device sizes
- When built on a CMS (like Drupal), site content updates are done easily
- Search Engine Optimization can be achieved easier based upon the platform
- Conversion and tracking mechanisms are easy to implement
- Typically costs more to implement initially
- Can be difficult (costly) to customize on handheld devices to reduce un-needed mobile content
- Difficult to integrate with phone specific functions
I prefer the responsive method over the mobile site method - simply because with a little more work up front, you can have a site that looks great on any platform. All that being said, it really is up to the website owner to decide which design works well for their business needs.
In the end, I'll say that building a truly remarkable mobile ready website is quite challenging. For instance, look at this critique Smashing Magazine gave of the two Presidential Candidate websites and how they integrate the mobile experience.
What are your thoughts on mobile vs. responsive? Can you add any more to our pros and cons list?
Share your comments below.
Photo Attribution: kingdafy