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Responsive or mobile: which website is preferable?

1 June 2017
Yael Peichich
Responsive website on different devices

In this day and age, we all understand that any internet website, should also be adapted to small screens of all sorts (cellular/tablets/laptops/etc.)

Although many “experts” erroneously consider responsive websites and websites optimized for mobile content, there is actually a vast difference between the two.

A mobile-optimized website is a website which presents content from the “main” website optimized for mobile users’ needs, mainly those that lead to an activity. This content usually includes only vital information such as contacts and a telephone number. This website is totally separate from the “main” website which is usually connected to a common management system yet was constructed by another code which was planned, characterized and designed differently and uniquely.

A responsive website, more accurately known as a responsive design website, adapts itself automatically to the size of the screen through which it is being viewed while retaining the website’s full content and configuration as it appears when accessed via computer. In other words, the user does not realize the “surfing” environment has changed.

Both types of websites are meant to generate a quality experience for mobile users which in turn motivates quick action.

So, if you’ve decided to build a website suitable for various mobile devices and are debating whether to design it responsively or to optimize its content for mobile, here are a few pointers that should be considered:

The type of data displayed on the website: when a user is searching for a local business (restaurant/garage/first aid/etc) he/she is actually searching for a telephone number to call or an address to reach. It is redundant to display a website filled with pages which simply do not provide any added value at this certain point in time. However, if said user is seeking a service provider (e.g. a business consultant) he/she will search for extensive relevant information on the website, such as recommendations.

  • Financial concern: A responsive website uses a common code for all platforms. Any modification to the website is performed only once. A mobile website is a separate entity and as such uses a separate code than the main website. Therefore, any update must be performed twice (which in turn means double maintenance).

  • Advertising spaces: It is far more difficult to control advertising spaces when dealing with a responsive website, while a mobile site displays banners in a fixed location, size and form.

  • Cellular services: Some services cannot be fully utilized in cellular devices when setting up a responsive website, such as location services (e.g. finding the closest garage to user’s whereabouts), direct connection to navigation application (such as Waze or Google Maps) or the Click to Call feature which allows the user to directly contact the business (without having to copy & paste the number).

Tip: it is preferable to review the data from Google Analytics in order to reach the correct decision regarding the message you wish the website to convey. For example, if you are operating a responsive website with a dropout percentage higher than mobile entries, this is definitely a sign that a full optimization to mobile (it it possible that the buttons or phone number on the website are too small to click and force the user to magnify the display).

Although important, differentiating between responsive and mobile websites does not turn deciding which is preferable easier. That said, the various considerations are now clearer- and that is a fine point from which to start.

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