In today’s world, there’s no question that you need to have a mobile-friendly website. I mean, it’s 2015. We’re all constantly on our phones. I’m even writing this blog post from my phone. Mobile internet usage is gaining increasingly more market share year-over-year, so it’s safe to assume that it’s here to stay. In fact, back in 2014, internet usage experienced a landmark moment, when mobile internet usage actually passed PC internet for the first time in history.

So it’s safe to say that if you’re running a business and you don’t have a mobile-optimized website, you’re missing out on valuable traffic.

Webmasters used to really only have one option when creating a mobile-optimized site – creating a completely new site specifically for mobile. Unfortunately, this requires a lot of time and manpower. Now, however, there are a few different options when thinking about going mobile, including both responsive and adaptive design.

Last August, we laid out a few reasons why your business should make the switch to responsive design. In this post, we dive a little deeper into the differences between dedicated mobile sites, responsive sites, and adaptive sites – and give you the information to help you make the right choice for your business.

Dedicated

Mobile-dedicated sites are those that have a dedicated subdomain that serves a mobile optimized site (mobile.example.com or m.example.com). Popular when mobile internet was in its infancy, mobile-dedicated sites are falling by the wayside. As we transition into 2015, the days of the notorious ‘m.’ subdomain are nearing their end. However, depending on the purpose of your site, there still may be benefits to using a mobile-dedicated site.

Adaptive

Adaptive design is essentially creating a handful of different layouts of your website, each one optimized for a different screen size. Your site then adapts to the detected user device, serving the predefined page for that device.

Responsive

Responsive design is similar to adaptive design in concept yet differs in implementation. Responsive web design uses CSS3 media queries to analyze the capability of the user agent and then re-architects the content accordingly in order to deliver a site optimized for the device. Simply put, responsive design websites are coded to adjust to the browser screen size, no matter what. With fluid grids that use percentages rather than pixels, responsive sites respond to the user agent. Rather than predetermining a set of layouts with different HTML and CSS like with adaptive design, responsive design sites are coded to shift and change fluidly depending on the browser.

SEO Benefits

When it comes to SEO value, logic would dictate that both responsive design and adaptive design offer more value. Both responsive and adaptive sites allow you to use the same URL for all versions of your site, therefore allowing you to consolidate your PageRank onto one property.

While creating a dedicated mobile version allows you to ensure your mobile site is set up exactly the way you’d like, it also requires you to set up a separate URL, which makes it a completely different property in the eyes of Google and other search engines. Further, having two separate URL’s with the same content is going to create duplicate content concerns. Of course, there are way to remedy this such as setting up switchboard tags and redirects, but then you run the risk of overlooking something minor that could seriously affect your rankings.

User-Experience Benefits

From a UX standpoint, responsive design can actually be somewhat of a hindrance. As we’ve stated previously, responsive design allows you to create gorgeous sites. However, many responsive sites tend to be image-heavy. The problem with serving the same site across any platform is that large or image-heavy pages are going to predictably load much slower on mobile than on desktop. As a matter of fact, a study found that 69% of responsive design mobile sites in 2014 had page load times longer than 4 seconds. According to mobile web developer Trilibis, a good rule of thumb for responsive sites is to keep page weight under 1 MB; this drastically reduces page load times.

Dedicated mobile sites and adaptive sites allow you to optimize specifically for mobile, ensuring you don’t run into slow page load times or other related issues.

Further, creating a dedicated mobile site allows you to create custom functionality that wouldn’t be necessary on desktop computers. Large corporations like Lowe’s and Sears, for instance, have dedicated mobile sites that feature price scanners and GPS-enabled store maps. Knowing that most users who access their site from mobile are likely customers within the store, they’ve designed their mobile sites to be useful to those customers in-store.

So, which way is better?

Well, first you have to define what’s better for your business. Are you a local photographer with your own studio and a content-light, image heavy website? Or are you a large restaurant franchise that’s looking to revamp your mobile presence?

In most cases, responsive design is the way to go. In addition to being cheaper and simpler to implement, responsive websites tend to also be more visually pleasing.

For heavy or complex sites, developing a light and streamlined dedicated mobile version with specific functionality may be the way to go. If your business has the budget and manpower to dedicate to the numerous hours of development, and

If you’re still scratching your head, give Command Partners a call. Our development experts specialize in creating beautiful, optimized websites while our team of SEO professionals ensure that your website is getting the search engine visibility it deserves.