Responsive Web Design vs. Dedicated Mobile Templates

With the rise of mobile devices as the number one internet access method, building a mobile-friendly websites in Sydney has become more of a priority for online strategy. The need is to engage users with a mobile experience designed for smaller screens on-the-go. To achieve this, there are primarily two different routes you can take: Responsive Web Design or a Dedicated Mobile Template.

What is responsive web design?

A responsive web design is an approach to create a website that adapts to the device you’re browsing on, no matter the screen size. It uses the same HTML, but displays different page layouts, text sizes and image sizes for mobiles, tablets, desktops, etc. Responsive websites contain the same content and overall design, regardless of the device being used; this provides users with a consistent experience.

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The advantages of responsive web design are:

  • You only need one single design to serve a variety of devices, it adjusts the layout and content of the web page based on the size of the user’s viewing area.
  • You don’t have to worry about duplicate content on different site versions, once you update your content, it is updated for all.
  • You only need one single domain name. This simplifies the sharing of your website, without the risk of people linking to wrong URLs (someone shares the mobile URL and a user links to it on a desktop = bad user experience). Note: This can also be achieved with a smart dedicated mobile website, but is often not the case.
  • Future-proof or at least as close to as possible. Because you’re not targeting specific devices, the website should still work nicely on new devices that come out in the future. For example, 7-8” tablets have started emerging over the last year or so, whereas before the mobile device target sizes were generally 3-5” and 10”.

However, there are some drawbacks of a responsive design:

  • It costs more and takes longer to develop.
  • It can often load unnecessary content for mobile devices which results in longer load times and bad performance. Images are a particular problem here as you don’t really want to be downloading a 1600px wide image on a phone that is only 720px wide and using a 3G connection

What is a dedicated mobile template?

A dedicated mobile template is a smaller template of your site that is built specifically for mobile users. Because it is a separate design from the desktop site, it allows you to customise your content to specifically fit the needs of mobile customers.

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The benefits of having a dedicated mobile template are:

  1. Faster loading time. Because you only submit content suitable for mobile devices, the load time can be dramatically less than loading a regular desktop site on a mobile device.
  2. You can create different designs or content for different devices. By having a separate mobile site, it is easy to target mobile users or desktop users to align with a device specific online strategy (promoting different products or services, for example).
  3. Better user experience. The site structure, navigation and content are all optimized for the tasks performed by mobile users.

The disadvantages of a dedicated mobile template are:

  1. Multiple domain names may to be implemented ( This becomes an issue when sharing the mobile site link to a desktop user and vice versa.
    Depending how you structure it, content may need to be updated multiple times (desktop and mobile).
  2. It can limit what mobile users have access to – if not done well, this can really annoy users.
  3. The design can become inconsistent.
  4. Targets specific devices/sizes – doesn’t account well for new devices in the future.

So… Which to choose?

If you already have a desktop website that you’re happy with it, or want to target content specifically to devices, a dedicated mobile template might fit your needs. If you choose this approach, make sure that your users can always get to your full desktop website in case they want to access content that’s not available on mobile. You should also try and keep the styling on the mobile site as consistent as possible with the full site.

If you’re planning to build a website from scratch or want to re-design your current website, then a responsive web design might be the best solution. You can have both the mobile and desktop versions in one pack. Despite responsive web design usually costing more and taking longer to develop than a standard website, you do get an all-in-one solution that delivers the same content and experience to mobile and desktop users.


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