This is something that we get asked a lot here at Extima. In the age of smartphones, tablets, and eReaders it’s important that your potential customers can access your site from all types of devices. The last thing you want to do is lose out on a conversion because someone couldn’t look at your site on their iPhone. For this reason alone, in our opinion, it’s always worth the investment to upgrade to a mobile site. However, to answer the question more thoroughly, it’s important to examine all the different mobile options available.
Mobile Friendly Website:
This is your standard website platform that the majority of sites on the web are built on. They can be navigated on any mobile device but the design elements are stationary and do not shift. This means that when a user browses the site from a Smartphone they will see only a small portion of each actual page and will have to manually scroll around the site to find what they’re looking for.
- Users can find your site on any device.
- All links on your site are click-able and work on every device.
- It’s the cheapest option available.
- Horrible mobile user experience.
- Much lower conversion rate for mobile users.
- Graphics are fixed width only so flash can often be a nightmare for mobile customers.
- Finding relevant content can be difficult.
- Site load times are slower when viewed on a mobile device.
Custom Mobile Website:
This is a website that is specifically designed for mobile devices and is a totally separate entity from your main site. The menus, styles and images are all coded differently and the end product will differ from your actual website. This is a great way to target the mobile audience, although the cost of development and upkeep will be much pricier.
- Your site will be extremely user friendly.
- Device specific design optimization can increase conversions.
- Cost of design will be around three times that of your standard website.
- You’ll have two separate sites to update every time you want to change or add something.
- There will often be a lack of continuity between your two sites.
A mobile app is an actual program that is downloaded to a users’ phone or tablet and loaded as a native app. Like the traditional mobile site, it too is an entirely separate entity from your normal website. It’s saved on the hard drive of whatever device it’s downloaded on, so if a person lost their phone, for example, they would need to download the app again on their new device. Additionally, if they had more than one mobile device that they wished to view your site on, then they would need to download the app multiple times.
- Apps tend to be very user friendly.
- You can market apps specifically for any device you choose.
- Once downloaded, an app stays on the user’s device until they remove it. So your site is essentially bookmarked by them.
- Certain apps can be sold to the user for a small fee to help recoup your initial investment.
- Development can cost up to four times that of a regular website.
- Different apps will be required for each device and OS.
- Apps will need to be re-downloaded if a user loses their device or gets a new one.
- Like the mobile site, updates will need to be made for two sites instead of one.
- Updates to apps need to be downloaded each time by the end user so your site might look outdated if a users’ app is not up to date.
Responsive Designed Site:
By mid 2012, a new technology became more widely adopted (due to a proposed standardization of HTML5 and CSS3 on most browsers) called Responsive Design. This type of site allows the elements on each page to flow and, using the same general design and page content of your normal site, can alter how the user sees the page depending on which device they’re accessing it from. This way you don’t actually need two separate sites in order for the user to have a great experience. This is the option that we’ve been recommending to most of our clients, and is, in our choice the most robust.
- From scratch, the cost of development is only about double that of a standard website.
- All your site updates can be done in one place.
- Greater continuity for your site design on all devices.
- It’s the most cost effective way to upgrade your site for a mobile audience.
- If mobile users are your only target, it’s better to opt for a mobile site or app as they can be built with a mobile specific framework, like jQuery.
- Since it’s a newer technology it still has some bugs. For instance, sites can sometimes crash if a user manually zooms in or re-sizes the window.
Now that you have all of the info on the types of mobile options that are available, we’ll leave it up to you to decide which choice is correct for your goals and business model. For us, it seems like a Responsive design addresses the most issues while delivering the least amount of headaches but we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! Also, if you’re interested in checking out some of the Responsive site designs that we’ve done, you can check out Pixel Fish, Charter Stone Capitol, and Honda Construction.