Making your website mobile-friendly: responsive design vs dedicated mobile website?

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Please note that this article is about websites, and about making them mobile friendly – i.e. making your website display nicely on your mobile and tablet. We aren’t discussing apps … that one is coming soon!

It is a truly exciting to be an owner of a website (and web developer for that matter!).

Over the last few years screen resolutions and dimensions have increased enormously and the growth of mobile web browsing has been exponential. Why is this exciting ? Thanks to advances in coding languages and browsers, we now have the opportunity to create websites that change state (vertical / horizontal / mobile / iPad / Android / iPhone / tablet / PC monitor) depending on the device the user is accessing the site with.

<!– Geek alert ahead –>

Since the introduction of HTML5 & CSS3 (hyper text markup language and cascading style sheets respectively, in case you’ve ever wondered what they mean) the possibilities of how hard a website can work has been massively redefined. Whilst both coding languages have existed for several years, it is only in the last year thanks to wider browser support and retrofitting plug-ins for older browsers, that magic entwined within has become widely available.

The designer and developer can create a carefully controlled and more focused browsing experience for the user dependent on their device. As a computer user, the browsing experience will feel perfectly normal, as the devices get smaller, the browsing experience is drastically improved.

I think that is enough geek talk, I’ll stop before I get too carried away… let’s look at the alternatives available

Option 1: Responsive website design

In plain English, you can make websites that know what size device you are using and will show you the appropriate version no matter whether you are on you desktop computer, tablet or mobile. No more tapping the screen of your smart phone to zoom in, the website will load in a mobile dependent environment. This is known as a responsive website or responsive website design.

The native environment of the website is adaptive in a way that could only be dreamed of a few years ago. The amazing thing with a responsive website is that you can guarantee the user a better browsing experience if they are on the smart phone or browsing on their 27inch monitor. This will affect your bottom line and will most definitely show in your statistics. Longer browsing times on your website will mean that you are reaching people more deeply than before and creating an increase in conversion rates. These are just some of the reasons we are excited!

Option 2: Dedicated mobile website

alxmls - dedicated mobile and web site
Prior to the development of internet voodoo, the best way to give users a better browsing experience from large screen to mobile was to create a second mobile friendly website and redirect the user to that when required. This option does also provide a great opportunity.

“Wait a second didn’t you just say this responsive website business was the best thing ever?”

You are right, we did, but its not always going to be right for every website. The responsive website is not always able to give that KAPOW! factor that a dedicated desktop website and mobile website can.  Vibrant full screen slide shows on computers and touch screen navigation galleries on smart phones.  Again, with the evolution of coding languages like jQuery mobile (you have no idea how exciting this language is to a geek like me!) the mobile friendly version of a site can be rendered to give a native mobile app feel, screen touch gestures included. Photo galleries have never looked or felt better on a mobile website.

Option 3: Do nothing

Doing nothing is easy, and it won’t cost you anything (yet). Websites will function to differing standards on most browsers, PCs and smart phones. Site functionality can be more limited and problematic (and sometimes completely invisible) especially if your website contains flash, drop down navigation (with no alternative), lightboxes for images (our pet hate on mobiles) or large streams of text making the reading process laborious and tiresome. If your target audience are non-smartphone users (generally speaking the 50+ age range) then your product / service / campaign is safe from harm. If otherwise you are targeting the 20+ with (some) disposable income, then more mobile-friendly websites are going to be essential to engage, retain and convert customers/clients/users/brand advocates.

Website owners … you have decisions ahead!

As a website owner, you need to decide whats best for you (and your budget):

  • stick with a normal old static website that renders satisfactorily on a computer, but becomes a chore on a mobile device or 
  • broaden your horizons and provide more unique ways to attract visitors via an online experience that adjusts to your customers’ browsing preference

It’s a strange position to be in, the options available are starting to become endless.  The choice has to be made based on content, services and budget. If your product is based on information, good old fashioned words and a few pictures, then a responsive website is an angel swooping down to make your information more versatile and practical to a broader audience.

If your product is mostly visual, then the old school/new tech way is a fantastic way to create spectacular content that can be shown in the perfect way on each device.

In 2010 mobile devices only accounted for 5-7% (source dependent) of web traffic, by 2011 it was 10-12% (source dependent) and recent articles (NY times included) have stated that in 2012 it is closer to 20%.

The mobile web is growing, smart phones out number people in the UK, this isn’t a fad. It’s becoming part of everyday life, so now is a perfect time to embrace it. Get information to people finger tips (literally in some cases) through the best way possible.

Here at Burning Red, we took the decision in early 2012 to make all our websites responsive, as it simply would be doing a disservice to clients to produce something that is instantly outdated.

If you want to talk to us about a dedicated mobile website or improving your current website to a responsive format, or anything that we have covered here please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


  1. John Murphy

    Everything you do is for your end customers. So, to make sure they can access your website through their mobile phones make it either responsive or create a dedicated mobile website. There are experts who are constantly working on various mobile web development projects to ensure every smartphone users face no hassle while opening and viewing websites.

  2. Natalie

    Nowadays the usage of mobile and smartphones are increasing day to day so obviously people like to surf anything in their devices rather than desktop,so mobile friendly design help them a lot to do so.

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