Today people are viewing websites on a wider variety of devices than ever before. From smartphones to tablets, laptops to flat-screen monitors, there are a wide variety of sizes and interfaces that customers can use to look at your website. Gone are the days that websites can design for a single screen size and ignore any outlying sizes. Today, customers have a literal plethora of options when it comes to accessing websites.
55% of Americans access the internet on a mobile device and 31% of those use their phone as the primary way to access the internet. Websites that are designed for average screens can become confusing or unreadable on small screens or stretched out and awkward on large screens. Instead of providing a website that looks good on a single screen size or on a specific browser, businesses and other website owners need to offer a website that can be used no matter where or how the viewer accesses it.
Some recent research by Google shows the importance of having a mobile-friendly website:
- 2/3 of smartphone users say a mobile-friendly site makes them more likely to buy a company’s product or service.
- 61% will click to another site if they don’t find what they’re looking for within 5 seconds.
- 72% of users say a mobile-friendly site is important.
“Websites that are hard to use frustrate customers, forfeit revenue and erode brands.”—Forrester Research, 1998
Bottom line: if your website can’t be used (or doesn’t look good) on a variety of devices and at a variety of sizes, you are losing customers. To prevent this, you have two options:
- create a mobile site designed specifically for smartphones and tablets; or
- create a responsive site that dynamically adjusts according to the viewer’s screen size.
A mobile website is a separate website that is designed specifically for users who come to the website on certain devices or are using a screen below a specified size. Users that meet these criteria are automatically redirected to the mobile site. Generally mobile websites have a simpler, narrower layout and use drop down menus and other space-saving options that make navigation easier on a small screen. This saves mobile viewers from having to pinch and zoom to be able to read the content on the normal site, though many mobile sites also do offer an option to view the regular site.
However, just because someone is accessing your website on their phone doesn’t mean that they necessarily want to do something than they would if they were using a desktop computer. The decision of which device to use is determined by the customer’s location and which device is more handy, not what they want to do on the website. A mobile site should have all the same functionality as your regular website, but should lay out the content in a way that is easy to view on a smaller screen. (This is sometimes called content parity.)
A responsive website is not a separate website, but rather a way of building a website using relative widths to reposition content according to the screen size. Responsive websites also often adjust the layout (for example, changing the navigation from buttons across the top to a drop-down menu), but they do so based solely on screen size, not by the type of device the viewer is using.
Which is Better?
Whether you choose to use a mobile or responsive site depends on several factors including your site design, what platform your site uses (Magento, WordPress, etc.), and what customers do on your site. If you aren’t sure which is best for your site, contact us and we’d be happy to help you figure out how to best reach your customers.