For all the hype over Google’s mobile-friendly algorithm update in April 2015, it looks as if few sites have truly been negatively impacted in a major way. All too many businesses, however, are taking this as a sign that mobile web design isn’t really that important, and that’s a huge mistake. Mobile usability may be not be impacting search engine optimization as severely as some industry experts expected, but mobile-friendly design is still definitely the trend. Bing has quietly announced that it will follow Google’s lead in making mobile compatibility a ranking signal. And even aside from search engines, consumers have expressed a clear preference for sites that work across all their devices. It’s inarguable: Professional website design these days is mobile-friendly website design.
But what does that mean, when it comes down to actually designing websites? There are essentially two mobile-friendly routes you can consider if you’re updating your site to work on mobile devices.
Responsive Sites: Pros and Cons
Responsive web design is the most common choice small and medium-sized businesses are making these days. Responsive designs are named thus because they actually respond to the device that’s accessing them by reconfiguring to be viewable on that device — including narrowing the viewing port, enlarging text, etc. The basic look and feel of the site, however, remains the same no matter what device a user is on. The biggest advantages of designing websites to be responsive are that it makes for a consistent user experience across various devices and that this type of site is typically easier to manage and update. The downside is that it’s difficult to customize certain aspects of the mobile user experience.
Dedicated Mobile: Pros and Cons
The other option you have when it comes to designing websites for mobile users is to create a separate mobile site that users are redirected to when they access the website on a mobile device. So if a user types in examplesite.com on a smartphone, they’d be directed to a subdomain, m.examplesite.com. The upside of this route is that you can customize every aspect of that mobile site to the mobile user experience, even making inferences about what mobile searchers are looking for and moving content around — perhaps putting a location or hours on the front page, instead of an “about us,” for example. The downside is that this site will need to be maintained as a completely separate website requiring its own updating.
Do you have any thoughts or preferences on mobile solutions that you’d like to share? Join the discussion in the comments.