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Mobile Readiness – Responsive Sites vs. Mobile Sites

Mobile Readiness – Responsive Sites vs. Mobile Sites

by Jessica Jones

With more and more internet traffic coming from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets there is increasing emphasis being put on the importance of having a website that is mobile ready. At Slamdot we offer several options for mobile readiness, including responsive designs and mobile website packages.

You may have heard the terms “responsive,” “mobile website” and “mobile ready” and been unclear as to the differences between them. This post aims to clear up some of the confusion and help you make the best choice for preparing your website for the mobile world!

Mobile Ready

“Mobile ready” is an umbrella term that refers to any website that functions properly on a mobile device, no matter which method it uses to achieve that functionality. Whichever route you take, being mobile ready is the result that matters. Most of your users won’t notice or care whether you have a responsive design or a separate mobile site as long as your site works when they use their device to interact with it.

Responsive Designs

Responsiveness is a relatively new development in the web design world – the term was coined in 2010 and the concept has gained significant ground in the past year as tablet sales and usage continue to rise. Responsiveness means that the functionality to adapt to differing screen sizes is built right in to your website design – the design itself responds to the size of the screen it is being viewed on. No reload or refresh of the site is necessary for the response to happen – when you’re viewing a responsive site on your computer you can simply resize your browser window to see it in action.

For an example, take a look at the FreedomLink RX site, built on one of Slamdot’s newer responsive designs. First, view the site at normal size in your computer’s browser, then shrink your browser window gradually. As the window reaches the the average size of a tablet screen you will see the first response – the three rotating slides will reduce to two, the sidebar elements will stack below the content and the footer will rearrange itself into two columns. This is how the site will automatically appear if viewed on a tablet.

If you shrink the window further, to approximate smartphone width, you will see the next response – the upper menu stacks vertically, the slideshow reduces to showing one slide at a time and the footer collapses into a single column. This is how the site will automatically appear if viewed on a smartphone.

Mobile Sites

A mobile site is a completely separate site design that is set up as an add-on to your main site design. If a user views your website on a smartphone they will see a completely different layout; it will contain many of the same elements of your site (your logo, content, etc.) but it will be streamlined and optimized to a smartphone sized screen.

For an example, take a look at the Huck Finn’s Catfish site, a Slamdot site that uses a mobile website add-on. First, look at the site in your computer’s browser, then look at that same site on your smartphone. Your smartphone will show you the mobile site, which includes a link at the bottom for viewing the full website for users who would prefer to see the regular layout. The main design looks the same on a smartphone as it does on a computer, but of course much smaller, requiring the user to zoom and scroll in order to read and click. The mobile site features larger buttons that can be tapped without the need for zooming, and a single column design that allows the text to be displayed at a readable size, making the site quick and easy to navigate.

Which Choice Is Best For Your Website?

Either of these options will make your site mobile ready, which is the real goal. When making your choice, perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is this: are you happy with your current, non-responsive site design? If you’ve got a website that you’re pleased with, but you wish it were mobile ready, you may want to consider adding a mobile site. A mobile site doesn’t require you to change your current design, and the expense is less than that of overhauling your entire site.

If, however, your site is looking dated and you’ve been considering upgrading to a more modern design, choosing a design that is responsive is a good, all-in-one solution that will ensure that your new site will be at its best no matter what format it is viewed in.