Is it better to have a responsive-adaptive design or to have a website dedicated to mobile devices (such as tablets and smartphones)?
If we consider the final result, a site created with an adaptive-responsive design and one designed for mobile navigation do not differ. In both cases we are trying to intercept the traffic of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, by making it easy to navigate on a “small” screen.
In the first case we use a unique dynamic design which adapts in real time to the various dimensions of the screens used to view the site. In the latter we use an ad hoc design which is automatically proposed as an alternative to the standard design of the site, when the screen detected by the browser is less than a certain size.
From a SEO/SEM perspective however, a responsive-adaptive approach is more suitable, because all the traffic reaching the website is seen by Google as being addressed to a single site while, using a dedicated mobile website version, the traffic can be seen as reaching different websites.
This is due to the fact that while responsive-adaptive websites have their URL in a normal form, such as www.domainname.com, most dedicated sites have their URL as m.domainname.com, which can be seen by Google’s bots as a different site from www.domainname.com, thus splitting the traffic.
From a usability point of view, a dedicated mobile site can have its strengths:
- easy to design, technologically less complex ;
- low risk of introducing random behaviour when the size of the screen is reduced and different browsers are used;
- bandwidth saving, thanks to some simple techniques such as, for example, removing the multimedia content and using resized photos.
But a responsive-adaptive design also has some advantages:
- SEO advantages (we have already talked about these);
- easy to manage because there is just one site to update and you do not need, for example, different versions of the same picture and so on;
- more flexibility, as it can adapt dynamically to each and every mobile device currently available;
- better look & feel.
So which one should you choose?
We always suggest a responsive-adaptive approach, unless the site is going to offer a lot of multimedia content, which would noticeably slow the website down. In fact, apart from aesthetics and easy management, we must always consider the cost factor (few providers offer flat mobile internet plans at an affordable price) and time factor (in some places mobile internet coverage is minimal and loading time increases), to be able to provide the best experience to every user.
So as a guideline:
multimedia rich website = dedicated mobile design
site with average or low amount of multimedia content = responsive-adaptive design