Difference between Mobile site & Responsive design

Is there a difference between a mobile website and responsive design?

Difference between mobile and responsive design

Our customers ask us all the time "what's the difference if I decide to have a mobile website instead of a responsive design," Hopefully, this article will explain the major variations between these two different types of website solution.

There are significant differences between a mobile and responsive website respectively.

With the whole world now going seriously mobile the need to have a compatible mobile browser safe site is becoming of paramount importance. Not only for attracting people to your brand but also delivering quick and simple touch screen activated functionality to the end-user. The speed of the page that loads on your mobile device and the rapid progression through pages make mobile websites & responsive design a definite plus for all online businesses.

Both options are a viable solution to getting your website optimized for mobile and tablet technology, however opting for a mobile site usually costs a lot more than opting for a responsive website.

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Let's start with explaining about Mobile Website characteristics

Mobile sites are designed and developed differently to responsive sites.

Mobile sites are designed and developed entirely different for a start. Usually beginning with a sitemap, pages get created so that when an end-user navigates through pages there is a structure that will lead from one page to another page. A mobile site has a purpose, and this purpose needs to be thoroughly worked out before beginning design and development.

Diagram of a mobile web design sitemap
Heads up! The above image is an example of a typical sitemap for a mobile website. Make sure that you have given attention to the main purpose of the comprehensive site and the functions it will perform when beginning development.

The Mobile user-interface appears differently on screen than responsive design

When a mobile site displays on a mobile screen, it is very obvious to that of a responsive layout. Mobile sites are way more functional than their responsive counterparts, and each page specially designed so that the look of the mobile site looks much more professional. As stated earlier in this article, each page on a mobile website will have a unique design and that is the same for the functions that you find yourself clicking and interacting with when using it.

A mobile website page will have the look and feel of a mobile application. Information will be minimal and the functional aspect of the total page will look completely different and will co-ordinate with the other technical features of the page.

A mobile website does not eliminate the need to have a desktop website!

Just because you have a mobile site, it does not mean that this is the only website you will need. Yes, the majority of people are using mobiles and tablets to access the internet but the laptop and desktop PC users of this world still need to be able to view a website on their monitors, this is why having a mobile site can be costly. Not only will you still need a traditional desktop site, but you will also need a tablet website. Have you thought of the management? Will you do the changes yourself via FTP (File Transfer Protocol) or will you be using a CMS (Content Management System)? Will all of your websites be managed separately or will content update simultaneously?

Heads up! Take the time to think long and hard about what type of solution will best suit your budget, will be the easiest to manage and what the on-going costs may or may not be!

Q.Why is mobile more expensive than responsive?

Because there is more work involved in designing multiple templates, there is more time and effort thinking about how the pages need to interact with each other, then there is the functionality that the mobile website needs to perform.

  • Will it use the GPS of the mobile phone for location tracking purposes?
  • Will there be payment processing pages?

It also depends on what your intentions are for the project in question. Would you choose a mobile website for a regular 5-page brochure site, no not really, because brochure websites are normally informative pages describing location, services and contact details but would be a perfect choice for a responsive website.

Q.What about tablet website design?

We have not talked yet about this type of solution; a tablet screen has an entirely different Graphical User Interface (GUI). Have you ever used a tablet device, there are plenty of web elements that are designed specifically for these screens, sliders, toggles, touch-enabled graphics that let you change monetary amounts or make an image bigger or smaller. When thinking of a mobile website design be sure you take into account all of the other websites that are needed. What tends to happen is that business owners are not as up to date as all of us young digital guru's and so what starts off as a small project can grow into multiple websites on multiple devices performing a variety of different functions! So how do you manage all of these various sites on all of these platforms? Do you see where I am going with this? My advice would be to work out exactly why you need a website in the first place and then research, research, research, whatever you do, do not go into it blindly unless your pockets are very deep, and you have the staff that can manage all of these different online solutions!

Take a look at some designed mobile interface screens below:

iPhone 6 showing a mobile website calendar screen

Mobile Login Screen

iPhone 6 showing a mobile website calendar screen

Mobile Calendar Screen

iPhone 6 showing a mobile e-commerce website shopping screen

Mobile Shop Screen

Heads up! As you can see above, each mobile screen has been specially designed to work within the confines of an iPhone 6 interface, each element of design has taken into consideration what the purpose of the page is and how a user will interact with it.

Mobile website facts:

  • Specially designed for mobile phone handsets.
  • Are coded to appear when a mobile device accesses domain.
  • Can use a variety of functionality that is already pre-built into a cell phone, e.g., GPS, click to call, Calendar (to name but a few).
  • Quick loading because of minified code and assets.
  • Present precisely required information.
  • Give your business a boost on Google Moblie Search.
  • Bring a level of sophistication to your company.
  • Doesn't eliminate the need to have a desktop website
  • Will not necessarily work on tablets.
If you are interesting in further reading, follow this link for more reasons to have a mobile website design.

Responsive Design Characteristics

While mobile sites have been designed specifically for mobile phone devices; responsive website design is for every device that includes mobile phones, tablets, PC desktops and any monitor of any size.

These styles of design are coded to resize and fit the width dimensions of the screen.

Usually responsive sites are coded on a grid layout and so when viewed on a large screen will show the full size of a typical desktop based website. When the size of the display reduces in width to a tablet device that in landscape format, the device detects code in the structure of the website and resizes the dimensions accordingly showing the same content that you viewed on the desktop monitor. Holding the tablet in a vertical position will shift the content according to the dimensions of the screen width. When using a mobile device, the website will then change again down to a one grid column width and all the website content will appear in a single line allowing for swiping the screen in a downward gesture.

Example of a responsive grid layout below

Various devices showing how responsive websites align on the screen using a grid design

Responsive website facts:

  • The website is designed and developed to fit all screen sizes.
  • Usually, the next step for small business owners when re-designing the site.
  • Content is delivered seamlessly to all handheld mobile device browsers.
  • Give your business a boost on Google Moblie Search.
  • Bring a level of sophistication to your company and look more professional online.

Cost usually has a large part to play in deciding which solution would be the right choice!

Both options are a viable solution to getting your website optimized for mobile and tablet technology, however opting for a mobile site usually costs a lot more than opting for a responsive website.

Q.Why responsive is probably the best option for small business owners?

Most business owners do not understand the benefits of either solution. The world of online to people over the age of 45 is all a bit of a mystery, one web company will say one thing, and another web company will say something else. Prices vary in the world of web design so drastically and it is no surprise that very few companies buy the right digital solution. Then there is the budget that owners set aside for the project. It should come as no surprise that if you only have a budget of one thousand pounds that your website will reflect that. At Mediatopia, we usually look at how long the project will take, this then reflects the price that we charge! This is why responsive websites are the most obvious choice as the cost of producing one is less time intensive, however, do not expect the world on a plate.

Mediatopia can help your business create the right solution

Now that you have read this article you might understand a little better what the differences are. Deciding on the right solution for your business website can be a daunting task and knowing whom to ask or which web company will be the best choice is surely going to cause some headaches.

At Mediatopia, we have been creating responsive websites since 2011 as we always have our finger on the pulse of the latest and best technology. Today we are still creating responsive websites, but we have perfected the look and feel so that each site represents the needs and services of your business and that they look and work great on all modern tablets and mobile devices.

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Posted by Duncan Maund

An image of the Managing Director of Mediatopia
Duncan Maund is the Managing Director of Mediatopia. He has been educating business owners on Social Media & Digital Marketing for over ten years. Having been involved with over 1500 website projects, Duncan has the knowledge and expertise to coach and advise businesses how to succeed in all digital technologies.