With the Google mobile update on its way in the upcoming weeks, there is one questions that gets consistently asked: Is it better to have a responsive design or a separate mobile site? While it might seem insignificant either way (as long as you have a mobile site), there are some clear benefits to responsive websites.
What is responsive?
Responsive is a term given to websites that utilize various tools and concepts to ensure that the user will always see a clean, fluid website on any device. This ensures that users are viewing the website optimally on tablets, mobile screens, and desktops.
It is different from a mobile website in that it adapts your website to fit any screen rather than creating an entirely separate entity to address your mobile users.
Benefits of Responsive
1. Google prefers it
Google has stated that it recommends a responsive design and that it is a best practice. Trust me when I say that if Google says it recommends something, you should probably start guiding yourself in that direction. Enough said.
2. It reduces page load time
Google prefers a page load time of 1 second for mobile devices. Mobile websites are generally built on a subdomain (like m.website.com) that redirect a user when they are utilizing a mobile device.
A responsive website will not have to redirect to a mobile version of the URL since you are simply rendering your website differently. Removing this extra step of redirection will provide a shorter load time for a page and thus, a better user experience.
3. It reduces bounce rate
On mobile devices, users are looking for a website that is easy to use and read. If users have a bad experience, they are likely to return back to the search results - looking for a more user-friendly website. This in turn increases your bounce rate. Google wants you to provide a better user experience. Therefore, it will give more preference to sites where users will not back out to the search results page.
A responsive site will allow you to ensure that your website is being viewed optimally across all devices so you can control what a users sees on specific devices. This will allow you to tailor the experience to reduce bounce rates and increase the overall user experience.
4. It avoids duplicate content
Having two websites (even on a subdomain that you own) has the potential to produce duplicate content. If you go the responsive route, you won’t get penalized for having the same content on your mobile site versus your desktop site.
Besides dealing with duplicate content to search engines, you might also have to manage content in two places. This could be bothersome as you will always need to make sure content is updated on both sites.
5. It’s Easier to Track
If you are tracking your website visitors in Google Analytics, it already provides you with detailed information on your mobile users. If you force your users off to a mobile website, you are breaking that tracking (or at the very least making things more difficult) so you will not have a uniform data set to analyze. Responsive design websites keep your analytics data uniform and all in one place without any potential hiccups in the data.
6. It’s the Future
Responsive website design is the future. It keeps the user experience in one flow and keeps visitors engaging with your website on multiple levels. With so many web designers and search engines preferring responsive design, it’s something that you’ll have to address at some point in the future. Why not address it now!
Creating a responsive site
For tips on how to create a responsive site, read our blog on making a mobile responsive site with Bootstrap.