What’s the difference between a responsive design website and a separate mobile website?

Posted on Tuesday, November 08, 2016 by Intergy Consulting
Responsive and Mobile website difference
Responsive and Mobile website difference

By now, every business owner should know that if they don’t have a website where potential customers can find them and learn about their company, they’re basically invisible.

But for many people, it can be hard to differentiate between a website with a responsive design, and a separate mobile website. And it’s likely that you want to know which one is better, or right for your business. This is a complex question, with many experts weighing in on either side, so the appropriate choice will depend on your circumstances.

If you’re wondering which one is right for you, here are the key benefits and differences of each:

Responsive design websites
Many consider a responsive design to be a more sophisticated and elegant choice, and it seems to be the overall direction that the web is heading toward. This technology is the more forward-thinking choice, since once the changes have been added to your site, it will work with devices released next month and next year, without further programming.

A responsive design detects the type of device that’s being used to browse the website, and adjusts the layout according to the device and the size of the screen. That means that the same content can be displayed on a smartphone in a one-column format, on a tablet in a two-column format, or on a desktop in a three-column format basically one website for a range of different devices.

One of the advantages of a responsive site is that they can support many screen sizes and devices with one implementation, a mobile site, on the other hand, must be built separately.

For business concerned with SEO and link building, responsive design websites can be the way to go, since new code is embedded within your current website, meaning the link equity is preserved, web addresses are easily shared, and complicated redirects are avoided.

Responsive sites are not always the most practical choice though, and a responsive design isn’t simply a patch that you can sew onto your existing site, as it usually requires a complete redesign of your user interface.

For this reason, if you’re happy with the desktop version of your site, or don’t quite have the budget for a redesign, it can make more sense to choose to develop a separate mobile site.

Separate mobile websites
Mobile sites have been specifically designed for devices like tablets and mobile phones. They’ll usually have a different URL (e.g., and are completely different to the full site.

While there are many benefits to responsive sites, this doesn’t mean that mobile sites are inferior, and in some cases they may make more sense than a responsive design particularly for businesses wanting to craft experiences specifically for those accessing their website on a mobile device.

Travel-orientated websites are a good example of this, as those planning a trip will need more information for research and planning on their laptops or desktops, while those already travelling simply want easy directions and itineraries. If your target audiences will have different and distinct needs depending on the advice they use to access your site, a separate mobile site can be an excellent option.

Responsive sites offer the same content and functionality as the desktop version, since the websites are the same, while on mobile sites, features need to be prioritised and important features can sometimes be left out.

Another drawback of creating a separate mobile website is the need to then maintain both websites, which can mean extra work when it’s time to update. However, for businesses who don’t yet have the budget for a fully responsive website, a mobile website can be an excellent short-term solution and will ensure that your customers can easily access information about your business, products, and services from any device they choose.

Having separate mobile site you have to maintain two separate silos of content otherwise it may hurt organic search traffic.

Whether you decide on a responsive design website or a separate mobile website, the most important thing is that your business has an easily accessible and user-friendly website for your mobile visitors. Simply relying on the desktop version of your website against all devices is a big mistake, and users (and Google) are increasingly demanding either a responsive or mobile version of a website for every business.

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