The Big Question: Mobile Dedicated Website vs. Responsive Design

By February 3, 2017Strategy

Today’s digital experience includes different websites that are all designed to serve different purposes and different audiences. With such a strong movement towards mobile marketing and site access, many are asking the question—should I build a mobile dedicated website?

So let’s start with the basics. Which type of sites serve what purpose:

  1. A mobile-dedicated website is designed for “just” mobile phone access.
  2. Then there are sites that are in fact web apps. They are a special type of mobile-dedicated site that looks and feels just like an app (but aren’t).
  3. The “responsive design” site is designed for a multitude of devices with different screen sizes; they automatically adjust the layout to fit the  screen size.
  4. Finally, the desktop site is designed for the desktop and often are not well suited to mobile devices.

Mobile Dedicated Website

As they sound, they are entirely distinct from the full site and typically have a separate web address from the main site. The features (or content) of these sites are usually a “light” version of the main website. They are not responsive sites per se, which typically contain the same content and functionality for mobile and desktop, but rearrange these features on mobile.

Web Apps

These are not real applications; they are actually websites that only look and feel like true applications.

Responsive Design

This platform uses a development technique that detects the device and dynamically adjusts the layout of a site.

Pros & Cons

It seems the reason people do not like mobile dedicated websites is that they often exclude content and functionality that some mobile users will miss.

Responsive sites can support a variety of devices and screen sizes with a single execution. Additionally, responsive sites were easier to find with a search engine. But today, search engines have figured out how to find mobile dedicated websites.

AND… responsive sites can sometimes be, slower, more expensive to develop, and occasionally fail on complex tasks.

Conclusion

All of these design types—mobile-dedicated, responsive, or adaptive—may work for you depending on your needs. Naturally, all of them have advantages and disadvantages. Typically the mobile user does not detect the difference. While the actual execution may be world’s apart in content and usability, the responsive, adaptive, or mobile-dedicated sites must follow rigorous QA procedures and mobile usability guidelines before they are deployed.

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