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Website design, which format? - mobile-dedicated, responsive, adaptive?

Andy Topps
Andy Topps04.07.2017

5 years after Responsive website design was listed as #2 in Top Web Design Trends for 2012, what is our view today?

 - We consider the 3 main options to handle mobile delivered content - mobile-dedicated, responsive or adaptive - what are the pro's and con's of each 5 years 'down the road'?

A quick explanation of what's what:

Mobile dedicated - an indepnedant website, possibly located on m.yourdomain.o.uk which has stripped-down content in relation to your main desktop site, offers a specific function and are totally targetted at mobile users.

Westex mobile view

Responsive website - a site designed to deliver content across multiple devices and therefore screen sizes. Often containing the same or very similar content to the main desktop site but delivered specifically for the viewing device. (Probably the most common form of mobile design in websites)

Anastasia Lighting website views

Adaptive website - a variant of responsive design in which the server detects the capabilities of a device and only delivers content and features that can be appropriately displayed on that device. More powerful devices receive more complex content that is enriched with CSS and JavaScript features accommodated by those devices. Less powerful devices on poor network connections are sent nimble, light versions of the page.

Okay, so now we understand a little more about the differences, what next?

There are questions that need to be answered before deciding which option is for your business website:

  • Does my company actually need a mobile friendly website? (Some would say this should be yes, 100% of the time)
    • If so, which approach is best for my company?
  • Who are my website visitors?
  • What do they need to see/do on my website?

If your website forms part of the sales process then you need to give serious consideration to a mobile friendly approach.

responsive design graphicYour website may rely on conversion goals - the measurement of some form of action by a visitor on a website; the most important ones are ultimately those that require a visitor to provide a small amount of personal information in return for some form of benefit i.e. download a whitepaper, receive regular newsletters, submit a form to request further information, sign-up to a webinar, contact forms etc. This then enters the site visitor into the sales funnel and the process of permission marketing can begin - again. This process needs to be handled uniquely on a mobile view or the volume of data entry will mean the user won't go through with the action.

Your website analytics will tell you the proportion of mobile and tablet traffic - typically 30-60% depending what industry you are in, and their current behaviour should be what drives you down a particular development route.

People sometimes complain that mobile sites 'aren't detailed enough' or 'weren't as flashy as we thought' but 'they did offer a simple process to achive what I needed' and that's just the reason we have adopted mobile development - how easy is it for visitors to my website to do what they need to do quickly!?

Many companies point to a lack of mobile traffic as a key factor in the decision making process or argue that their customers or potential customers simply don't access their site on a mobile device, however over 50% of searches on Google are now performed on a mobile.

User behaviour and working practices also needs to be taken into consideration. Mobile technology allows users to access information at their convenience, perhaps whilst waiting for a plane or train or even on a train journey. Prompts such as recommendations that you've noted or book-marked, advertising or email marketing have reminded you to review a site at a more convenient time. And don't forget that you may inadvertently be the cause of the lack of mobile traffic. For example, if I perform a search on my desktop for suppliers of X, with a view to saving them to a bookmarking site such as Delicious; for future consideration, a poorly constructed site with possibly no conversion opportunities suggests a company that doesn't want my business.

Secondly, if a company provides a reasonable initial experience and their website makes my bookmarking list, but fails to provide a mobile experience, it will register as a mobile visit but will most likely cause me to leave the site immediately resulting in an increased bounce rate, no completed conversions, no return visits and ultimately low mobile traffic data.

Our view is ultimately that you never know who may be looking at your website!

The decision therefore on which approach to adopt should be primarily based around the ability to convert. If conversions play a key role in the sales process then a mobile specific site can play a pivotal role by simplifying the experience. They tend to load faster as a lot unnecessary content is removed and are easier to navigate.

With a standard desktop experience there is always the temptation to over complicate things that if analysed, bring very little value. For this reason, Vital always recommends considering the mobile experience ahead of the desktop.

Google has said publicly that they would prefer all sites be responsive websites. However – and this point is critical – Google has also made clear that their search algorithm doesn’t care what type of mobile website you have.(responsive website versus dedicated mobile website)

Responsive websites are more complicated to build and have higher upfront costs but one important consideration is the life-time cost. Over time, it will be much more cost-effective to build and maintain a responsive site rather than having the overhead of two sites. Mobile designs may not be fully compatible with future mobile browsers or devices and to some extent this is a bit of an unknown; responsive websites on the other hand, will most likely be able to work with newer browsers and devices, so they are more of a one-time investment.

Conclusion

Mobile-dedicated, responsive, or adaptive are all possible ways to implement mobile user experiences.

Each has pro's and con's. For the user there is no difference between them to differentiate. 

It comes down to: cost, personal preference, user types and site content, the decision is yours, but we're here to help!

If you are looking to maintain your rankings in the search engines and would like to discuss a mobile specific or responsive website, please get in touch.

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