What Is the Difference Between a Mobile Website and a Responsive Website?

For Lawyers, Doctors, and Dentists

Christian Stack - Internet Marketing Consultant
December 21, 2017

Has your website company or SEO company been pushing you to make your site responsive? Or perhaps a friend has told you that you need a mobile site and they can help you get one live? Or perhaps you’ve been hearing about Google’s mobile first indexing or even the craziness around Mobilegeddon?

Are all of these terms and conversations driving you nuts and confusing you so that you aren’t sure what the difference is between a mobile website and a responsive site? Well have no fear! I’m here today to help you know exactly what the difference is between a mobile site and a responsive site.

URL Differences

The main difference between a mobile site and a responsive site is the URL structure. A mobile site exists on either a subdomain of your website’s root domain (m.yourdomain.com, for example) or a completely separate URL than your root domain (yourdomainsmobile.com, for example).

A responsive site is your main site and root domain; it’s just built in a way that allows it to respond appropriately when viewed on a mobile device.

Having a mobile site on a separate URL presents a couple of issues. Mainly, this means that there are two versions of your site online; without proper use of canonicalization, you are risking duplicate content issues. With two different versions of your site, Google may get confused with which is the correct version to index in search results. Also, with two different versions of your site, you will have to update content in two places when making changes.

Content Differences

If having a mobile site means that you have two versions of your site, that also means that the content could be different than your main site. Typically, mobile sites are smaller versions of your main site, some with only 5-7 pages. Since Google is using the content on your site to determine what queries to rank your site for, it stands to reason that your smaller mobile site might not get as many individual rankings as your main site.

This can be disastrous for your search results and traffic. With two different versions of your site, you will have to update content in two places when making changes to your site. This means there is potential for mistakes, wrong content and significant differences in quality and relevance being delivered to your audience.

Sizing Differences

The main reason behind having either a mobile website or a responsive website is so that it is able to be viewed on a smaller device, such as your smartphone or a tablet. Mobile sites were traditionally built as a separate version of a site. When viewed on a desktop, the design looks small, squished and not sized proportionately.  The opposite is true for non-responsive desktop sites; when viewed on a mobile device, static sites with no mobile functionality (think old HTML websites) are hard to navigate and usually tough to find the content you’re trying to view.

A responsive site is your website, but coded so that the configuration of the view changes based on the device it's being viewed on. Navigation menus move or become a sticky menu, text and image layouts change to be easier to view based on the device. This leads to a much more streamlined user experience, meaning visitors will stay on your site longer and are more likely to engage with elements like your call-to-action buttons, clickable phone numbers and chat agent.

The Verdict Is Clear

As you can see from the reasons above, a responsive website provides not just a better mobile experience but a better overall user experience. Responsive sites are found and indexed better by Google, which prevents potential SEO nightmares. There is a big push within the Web design industry for mobile-first design. This means that instead of designing a desktop site and then making it responsive, designers are starting with the mobile experience in mind and then expanding it to also work on a desktop.

As more and more users are only viewing sites on a mobile device, this approach has become the cutting edge approach. If you’d like to learn more about how Page 1 Solutions can help you build a mobile-first designed responsive site, please call (303) 233-3886 today for a free marketing evaluation.