As a web site owner, there is no doubt you need a mobile version of your web site. According to Pew Research, as of 2014 64% of all American’s own a smartphone. According to Google, over half of all searches on their search engine are being done on a mobile device. Therefore, if your web site is not mobile ready, when those users click on your search results within Google, they will not be presented with a site formatted to their smaller screen. Your site may look great of your PC, but you will still be losing customers. Additionally, Google recently announced that they will actually begin to lower search rankings for sites that are not mobile friendly.
What many business owners don’t realize though, is that there are many mobile technologies to choose from when deciding to enable mobile on your web site.
Responsive design: Our preferred method, responsive design uses CSS programming techniques to allow your site to “transform” from a desktop to a mobile site automatically, based on the size screen that the user is browsing on. The user sees exactly the same web site and the same information, it will just be formatted a little differently on their phone versus a desktop. This is the easiest to maintain as there is only one web site to monitor and update although is probably means a complete redo of your site as older programming is most likely not compatible with these new techniques.
Parallel mobile site: Here you would create a completely different parallel web site. The user would see either the desktop site or the mobile site based their device, but unlike responsive design, they are actually viewing a completely different web site. On a mobile device, if you have ever scrolled to the bottom and see the link “See Desktop Version”, you are probably on a parallel mobile site. These sites are more expensive to create and maintain because there are actually two separate sites, but you can also completely customize the information that the mobile user see versus the desktop user. For example, on an ecommerce site, you may not want to allow certain purchases on a mobile device. Or you may want to simplify the information served on mobile versus having more detail on the desktop. Additionally, you give the user control by allowing them to switch to the site they prefer to use.
Simple mobile site: Similar to a parallel site, a much scaled down site is created. No attempt is made to serve the user with much information beyond a basic business card type name and address site, with the option of clicking through to the more in-depth desktop site. I would not recommend this method, but it can be very inexpensive to create as we are creating a second site that is simple to design and requires almost no maintenance.
Mobile app: The ultimate in mobile experience is to create a full-fledged mobile app. This can be costly and is generally beyond the technical capability of most web designers, but this option creates the best possible user experience, harnessing the real power of mobile. I would only go down this path if there were a compelling reason to do so such as an extremely high volume usage site. Mobile apps need to be programmed and then submitted to the various app stores such as Google Play and iTunes and need to be multi-platform, Android and iOS at a minimum, but don’t forget Windows Mobile and Blackberry users as well. A programmer needs to be able to create apps for multiple platforms.