Should You Have a Responsive Site or a Mobile Site?

Published May 04, 2014 by James Parsons in SEO
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There is no denying that more and more people are accessing the internet than ever before. However, the way that people are accessing it has drastically changed over the last half-decade, which means that websites need to make some changes as well. People now can get online and view their favorite websites from computers, tablets or mobile devices, all with their own size and pixilation dimensions. Because of this wide variance in viewing options, businesses with websites now need to make decisions as to whether or not they want to have a responsive or mobile website. Both of these options have their own benefits and downfalls. Here is a look at both choices, so that you can better decide whether you should choose a responsive or mobile website.

What’s The Difference?

Before looking at which type of website you should consider, it’s important to determine what the difference is between a responsive and a mobile website.

Mobile websites became very popular as mobile phones were used more and more to access sites. These types of websites act as individual and new websites, which looks completely different when a user accesses it from their mobile phone, rather than what it would look like if they accessed it on their computer browser. The reason that companies go with mobile sites is because it often takes less bandwidth to run and it can be easier for users to navigate through certain parts of the site.

A responsive website is another popular choice for building a website, though it is completely different than a mobile site. A responsive website is one that is the same as the actual browser that you would see from your computer. However, when a user views a responsive website from their mobile phone or tablet, the size of the website changes to match the size of the screen that they are using. This allows for users to get the feeling of using an actual browser, which they may be more familiar with instead of a mobile site, which often has different navigational features and different content. Responsive websites are often times considered to be just as useful as regular sites, though they are much more accommodating to smaller devices such as tablets and phones.

What Is Important To Consider With Mobile and Responsive Websites?


  • Longevity

If mobile websites sound great, well, they kind of do. However, they certainly have their own shortcomings as well. First of all, you need to consider that once mobile websites became increasingly popular, more and more companies started popping up that promised they could build great sites. However, the landscape of mobile websites is always changing, which makes it incredibly difficult to continually update your mobile site. This means that if you entrust a developer to help build your site, but they move on to a different industry, then you will need to have a new developer familiarize themselves with your mobile page and hopefully take it over. This can be incredibly difficult, and sometimes it’s often better to just start from scratch, which probably isn’t a very ideal option either.

On the other hand, responsive websites do not need to be updated separately, but rather they are built into the same code as what is on a persons computer browser. That means that it’s much easier to quickly make a change to the browser and notice it show up on a viewers mobile device. When you consider the fact that most websites are routinely updating content or even adjusting to new technology or new devices that are on the market, you can probably see how important it is to have something that is easy to update and convert to new formats. For that reason, responsive websites are typically a bit easier and better to go with over mobile websites.

  • SEO Results

Another consideration to make for your responsive or mobile website should include an understanding of how each site is represented by SEO searches. In the case of mobile websites, those results are displayed independently from the search engine results that come from a regular browser website. That means that while your browser may be getting loads of hits, that won’t help your mobile SEO search rankings, and vice versa is well.

SEO is incredibly important and it is the way that businesses are able to get found amongst the millions of other things that are on the internet. Therefore, having high SEO rankings is vital for overall success. With responsive website design, your SEO results are combined from mobile, tablet and computer devices. Because it’s all the same website, every time someone uses the site, it is then added to SEO algorithms that make a difference in terms of how easily people can find your website. This can be incredibly beneficial to companies who may not have a strong SEO ranking and want to build it up. However, having to split the results from mobile and normal SEO is often a bad idea for those companies that need all the search engine help they can get.

  • Functionality

While it may look like mobile websites is trailing in terms of the best choice to make, there is one area that they really win over their viewers. This is the fact that mobile devices are typically much easier to use by browsers. Mobile sites are setup to run on smaller devices, which means that navigation menus are easier to find and make your way through as you are looking for information. This is incredibly convenient for those searching and one reason that people do like the mobile version of sites at times.



In comparison, responsive websites can be a bit tricky. Because it takes a while to reload a responsive site, that means that the site may take a bit of time to function properly on a mobile device. Furthermore, responsive websites can be hard to read long strings of text, simply because they do not appear to be very large on your mobile phone. Instead, they’ll have to rotate their phone and view it in landscape mode or scroll from side to side when reading something. For this reason, functionality is typically better on mobile devices.

So What Should You Choose?

If you are already a well established website that offers a lot of intricate files, you may want to go with a mobile version. For example, if your SEO rankings are not very important because you already have a great following and your content is easier to search from a mobile version, then those two factors play a big roll in why you would select it. However, if you are a startup company or a business that is looking to make a name for yourself, you are likely to be better off going with a responsive website that will help generate and boost your SEO rankings. Just keep in mind to keep your responsive site as clean and easy to navigate as possible, so users will enjoy coming to it and return to do so again in the future.


Written by James Parsons

James Parsons

James Parsons is a blogger and marketer, and is the CEO of Pagelift. When he isn’t writing at his personal blog or for HuffPo, Inc, or Entrepreneur, he is working on his next big project.

Join the Discussion

  • Andy Liguori

    Hi James! After reading this I’m pretty set on having a simple javascript/mobile site instead of redoing my site in responsive. I think responsive sites are overrated 🙂

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