63% of adult cell owners now use their phones to go online, a figure that has doubled since we first started tracking internet usage on cell phones in 2009. In addition, 34% of these cell internet users say that they mostly go online using their cell phone. That means that 21% of all adult cell owners now do most of their online browsing using their mobile phone—and not some other device such as a desktop or laptop computer.
Now keep in mind, this was a statistic reported back in early 2013. All things considered, we can almost certainly assume that those numbers, if anything, have increased since then.
So here you are—you've got a company or organization and you're looking for an online presence and would like mobile customers to have as great of a browsing experience on your site as the desktop users do, which leaves you with the two options: mobile website or responsive website.
The Case for Responsive Websites
Personally, my go-to answer would be responsive. With responsive frameworks like Twitter Bootstrap (used for this very site!), Foundation and Skeleton, to name a few, building out your site with responsive elements in place is that much easier. "But John," you ask, "what about all the extra markup and site weight that comes along with these frameworks?" Yes, my friends, I'm afraid it's not all lollipops and rainbows. With great power comes great responsibility (or something like that). My response to that question would be that having a cross-platform site work correctly and look great on multiple devices far exceeds the little extra site weight needed to accomplish this.
The second great thing about having a fully responsive site is that you don't have to come up with different and/or new content. The same content is used across each platform, save a few things you might want hidden or revealed depending on where the user is viewing the site from. Any page or content that's not relevant to view from a mobile device can be hidden to them. This saves a lot of time and money, as you don't have to come up with two sets of content (although we do still recommend tweaking mobile content to match the intent of your mobile site visitors).
The Case for Mobile Websites
Now, all of this is not to say that there isn't a good reason why you would choose to have a separate mobile site. For instance, Facebook and Twitter both have mobile-version sites, so it's not just for the birds. The reason for this is, on sites that are very content heavy and feature a lot of user interaction, it's pretty important to have your site looking exactly how you would like it to, and going the route of a mobile site gives you the option of more control over that. Not to mention not having to deal with the headaches of testing older browsers (not supported on smartphones).
Another reason I'd see a mobile site being a better choice would be when your budget doesn't allow mobile or responsive at the moment, as it's something that could later be implemented. This way, instead of having to rebuild your entire site to be responsive, you could simply build out a mobile version of your site to your liking. And with mobile frameworks like jQuery mobile at the helm, you're already half way there!
So, when the time comes and you have to make the decision, mobile site or responsive site, consider these aforementioned points, and choose wisely! Of course, each and every situation is different. There's no cookie-cutter solution, as every website and its purpose are unique. For guidance in deciding which of these options is the best for your unique situation, contact us online or call us today at 612-455-7200.