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Going mobile. Why responsive website design is still THE big thing!

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Businesses are being urged to go mobile, but what does this really mean? Are your customers driving the need, how can you be sure they even want it?

So, what's driving the need for a having mobile website?

Mobile Internet is expected to grow at 10 times the rate of desktop internet, and by 2014 it’s estimated to overtake PC internet use. With it taking 20 years to create the first billion mobile internet subscribers, it only took 40 months for the second billion.

There’s a lot of grand predictions for the continued boom in mobile usage which makes for very exciting reading, especially with Google placing so much emphasis on 'Local'. Unless you start considering the experience of your mobile visitors soon, you will undoubtedly be missing out!

What’s the best mobile solution for your business?

Although  mobile websites are still in relative infancy, there are now two clear development paths being adopted to cater for your mobile website visitors:

  1. Standalone mobile website - The simplest and quickest approach is to build a standalone mobile website, although it would require multiple templates to cater for different screen sizes. It also creates additional communication channels to be kept updated which would soon become very costly with new mobile devices emerging all the time.
     
  2. Responsive website design - A more robust solution is to create a responsive website interface that adapts to the browsing environment be it mobile, desktop or even TV. Google promotes this approach as it eliminates duplicate content issues created by multiple standalone mobile websites.

Standalone mobile website vs Responsive website design

A table of pro’s and con’s with both approaches,

  Standalone Responsive
  Pro’s Con’s Pro’s Con’s
Content Target content more closely Risk of content duplication Easier and cheaper to maintain Requires complete restructuring of existing website's template(s)
Design Designing for a single environment naturally has it’s own advantages Increased workload in maintaining your brand consistency across multiple channels A single design adapting to different  device browser sizes from mobile to desktop and even tv The template must be flexible to be responsive across all devices, which presents different design challenges
Production Quick to deploy a single template Additional maintenance time required for multiple URLs 1 URL to promote avoiding any confusion with outbound links. No duplicate content issues Less mobile specific user experience
Marketing Capacity to differentiate mobile content Dilution of link popularity with multiple URLs Audience consolidation through the use of a single URL Less targeted mobile content as catering for a wider potential audience
Technology Content and media can be optimised specifically for each device As new mobile devices are launched it would be costly to keep track of advances Manage all website activity through a single user interface to minimise workload There are currently limitations with serving optimised content across different devices.

Different configurations for a mobile website

The following diagram represents the difference in configuration between both approaches,

Diagram of the difference in configuration between a responsive website design vs a standalone website

Use your website statistics to make informed decisions

Google Analytics has very useful data available on your mobile website visitors. Identifying the percentage of mobile vs desktop users and the knowing the most commonly used mobile devices, will help you decide on the route the best for you right now.

As a loose guide, if your mobile visitors equate to less than 5% of your total website traffic then a standalone mobile website would probably suffice. But if it’s over 20%, then you should definitely consider adopting the responsive design approach.

You get what you pay for

Agreeing your preferred approach (Standalone Mobile Website vs Responsive Website Design) is the first step in establishing the level of budget required. There’s a significant difference in the design and production costs between both, so it’s important to be clear of your objectives.

With standalone sites, the cost depends on the number of devices which you’re catering for, as a new template will be required for each, e.g. phone, tablet etc. Although responsive website design costs more to develop there are considerable long term cost savings.

From the conclusion of this research it would seem appropriate to quote an old adage “Pay cheap, Pay twice”. Mobile is clearly here to stay so the sooner your company embraces the demand of this rapidly growing auidence the better.

Good responsive website design examples

You can review responsive website design by clicking and dragging the bottom right corner of your browser window. Alternatively, Screenfly is a really handy tool for testing a range of mobile device sizes.

If you’re still looking for further information to back up the argument for taking a responsive website design approach, here’s some great articles.

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