With most people now accessing the web via phones, iPads and other mobile devices, website owners are faced with choosing between the two current methods for optimizing their websites for the smaller screen.
While use of mobile devices such as smartphones and iPads has clearly outstripped desktop use, the performance lag of typical websites on these devices has a definite and profound impact on user satisfaction and the potential bottom line for business web sites. While the majority of users expect websites to load faster on their mobile devices than a desktop, the fact that traditional websites have poor performance on phones and tablets is a definite problem. The culprit is that the screen resolution and network speeds do not allow for full website rendering on the smaller and less powerful mobile devices. This drives away website visitors that could have been customers, in droves.
In order to combat this problem businesses are slowly beginning to optimize their websites for phones and iPads. The question that they are faced with is the method by which they optimize the website. Both a mobile site and responsive design will optimize websites for smaller screens while also offering simpler navigation and faster load times. The challenge in the decision process is that there are distinct differences in how they perform this task with each having advantages and disadvantages.
What is a mobile website?
A mobile site is essentially a copy of the website where the server does the work to streamline the page to an optimal size that is smaller and easier to navigate. It accomplishes this via media query that allows it to determine the resolution for the screen size of the device that is accessing it. Flexible images and fluid grids then size correctly to fit the screen with the unnecessary elements of the page disappearing. This can be a more economical method than the more expensive responsive design.
The mobile site method requires the use of a different domain than the original site, which can reduce search traffic and increase website management workloads as the user has essentially two separate sites of content to maintain. In addition, links shared from mobile browsers will not register as search link equity with the primary site.
What is responsive design?
With responsive design, the domain remains the same and the only thing changing is the back end code. This method preserves link equity and allows the site to keep all analytics and SEO work at one URL regardless of the device accessing the website. It also has what is called a low “bounce rate,” which means that users clicking on the website return to other search results in lower numbers. Google is big on this method as it avoids redirects.
As new generations of phones and mobile devices enter the landscape, mobile sites may need further reworking to stay current. On the other hand, the adaptive nature of responsive design means that it will work on new devices without additional changes or programming. For businesses, the ultimate concern is not which website optimization method to choose, but if they are aware of optimization’s financial implications in terms of site visitors.
Current estimates put mobile device use as representing one-fourth to one-third of total site interaction. Consequently, those businesses that do not make the leap to website optimization may be missing out on a significant number of sales. According to Adobe’s 2013 Digital Marketing Optimization Survey, companies with mobile-optimized sites triple their chances of increasing mobile conversion rates to five percent or above.
Every business must look at their website and the needs of the business to determine the type of mobile device interaction for their websites. By analyzing each option closely, they can make an educated decision that will allow them to move forward with today’s and tomorrow’s end-user technology. The goal is to stay in step with the way that consumers want to interact with them online.
Bio: E. Victor Brown has more than two decades of experience writing about technology, software and web development for businesses. He is a freelance writer for Boomtown Internet Group, a leading Philadelphia web design firm.