September 13, 2013

Responsive websites vs mobile websites

Written By Martin Sandhu
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Perhaps one of the most frustrating user experience issues brought on by the rapid increase in popularity of mobile devices is the now huge range of different screen sizes. It’s irritating both from the view of web developers and marketers, as well as consumers themselves.

The dreaded pinch and pull can make browsing a website on anything other than a desktop a nightmare – and we all know that’s no understatement! Add to that pop-up boxes which are bigger than the screen, so you can’t find the close button and text that’s ineligible when you zoom in and you have one very frustrating user experience, they’re hardly likely to stay around for long.

So, have you thought about what your web visitors see when they visit your website on different? There are a couple of options when it comes to mobile web, the main two being to incorporate a responsive design across the whole website or to opt for a stand-alone mobile site.

Although essentially you’ll get the same end product, responsive and mobile websites operate differently.

Websites built with a mobile framework are essentially a reproduction of an existing desktop site. It’ll have a custom url (m.yoursite.com or mobile.yoursite.com) and it will provide users with a unique and optimised smartphone browsing experience.

This is a great option if your existing website has complicated design features or relies heavily on interactive functions. Many modern websites, in particular e-commerce sites, rely on Flash animation or ‘light box’ photo galleries, which don’t easily translate on a mobile – often because they’re simply not supported or there isn’t enough memory for the browser to cope. Re-designing and developing a website, which is both aesthetically-pleasing and fully-functional on a mobile is necessary in these situations.

A website built in responsive code will not create a separate site for mobile, instead it takes an existing desktop website and makes it completely fluid. A responsive website will scale with the size of the browser window, providing an optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices – whether that’s a browser being viewed on a large-scale TV or on a small smartphones screen. In short, a responsive website responds to user control.

A responsive framework is a better option when consistency across multiple devices is needed. It’s great for sites which require a lot of text – you’ll often see it used on news websites. Essentially every device has two screen resolutions – portrait and landscape – and when it comes to reading, removing the need to pinch and pull and essentially eradicating the issue of screen size is an ideal option.

Consider both options when deciding to make the move to a mobile website, each have their benefits for different businesses. Put your users-first. Their first experience of your brand could well be on a mobile device, so making sure it works and has the same impact it would on a desktop PC is vital.