The world of technology is changing at a rapid pace. A few years back, we were happy with our desktops and found them ultimate. Then entered laptops, but with the introduction of smartphones and tablets, the approach towards design and user experience changed drastically. Before these devices came into existence, the web designers only had to focus on keeping the look and feel of the websites same in various desktop computer browsers.
Now an individual browses the same site across various devices and wants impeccable user experience. This is tough to attain for the designers given that pixel-resolution, click versus touch, screen-size etc. are very different. With more than 4 billion mobile phones being used across the globe, you cannot neglect the importance of people surfing and browsing on their mobile device. With smartphones rapidly replacing PC for surfing, not having a mobile-friendly website is like committing business suicide.
The burning question today in front of designers is whether to use Responsive Web Design (RWD) or mobile specific website designing. Both the methods are used, but there are differences in the approach and hence let us compare the two to see which will be a better solution.
- RWD is a way of building a website that responds to the size of the browser. A mobile-friendly site, on the other hand, is designed specifically for smaller screens; simplicity, relevance and ease of navigation are some of the key elements to consider while designing.
- As images, text, audio/video players, screen layouts and other UI elements re-adjust themselves on a variety of devices, there is no need to spend time, energy and money for creating and maintaining different versions of the website for mobiles and desktop in case of RWD. Mobile specific designing, on the other hand, will be a good choice when it might be too expensive to design responsively. It also customises a unique experience for mobile users.
- When it comes to domain protection, RWD lets you keep your own domain as nothing changes except code on the back-end. Maintaining a single shared site preserves a canonical URL, avoiding any complicated redirects, and simplifies the sharing of web addresses. With mobile specific designing, you must create a different domain. Creating two sites do let target specific hardware better, but on the flip side it dilutes the domain and hurts organic traffic search.
- RWD is a better option for search as it embeds a new code on the back-end of your website. Thus, your company’s link equity is preserved. In mobile specific designing, as the mobile site uses a separate domain, links shared from mobile browsers will not count as search link equity toward the primary site. So, it is not good for search rankings.
- One of the best things that work in favour of a responsive website is future scalability. There are new devices and screens coming up every now and then. As this technology is forward-thinking, once added to the site it will work on next months and next year’s devices without having to be programmed further. This works for the future eliminating the need to get it designed again from scratch. In mobile-specific websites, reworking would be required to stay current with next-generation phones and mobile browsers that keep coming in.
- RWD websites are agnostic to devices and their operating systems. It is a win-win situation for both the website owners and users. The users are happy to have a consistent and the best experience across all devices. Website owners don’t need to build versions of their website for every popular device platform, which they expect their audience might be using. Hence, they are a better return on investment. In mobile-specific designing, though the initial cost of building is less as compared to RWD, it might require higher maintenance and expenditure later.
- One of the complaints against mobile-dedicated sites is that they often exclude content and functionality that they think will not be relevant. The truth is that it may prove relevant at least to some users occasionally and not having that on the website pisses them off. Responsive design tackles that objection by striving for content and feature parity across different versions of a site.
Due to differences in underlying technology, each approach has inherent benefits and flaws, development frameworks, and appropriate use cases. If you want a solution that’s easy to maintain, makes use of existing skills and that you can control, then Responsive Web Design is the approach for you. If you want a high-quality user experience, better performance, faster implementation and seamless transactions, then you should go for mobile specific designing. Whatever approach you follow, it should be based on your target audience and requires thorough planning and a good understanding of the user’s mind-set.