In 2014, you either go mobile or die, says Google… well, not literally. Mobile SEO is now a major topic and Google is taking a stronger stand on this. There are reports that Google will start demoting sites that are not mobile-friendly on mobile search results. It’s now important to ensure that your site can be easily accessed on mobile. Chances are that lots of people will discover your site through their mobile devices but if your site ranks poorly on mobile search, you stand to loose some good traffic.
Then rave for responsive design is everywhere and almost everyone seems to have caught the bug already but is it really the best solution? Have you considered other options and if you’ve done that, do you know what exactly is best for your website?
As you probably know already, there are two major ways to mobilize a website:
- Using a responsive design
- Creating a dedicated mobile website
Both solutions work great but the question is which of these is better?
A responsive design simply means a design that automatically adjusts and formats itself based on the device used to access the website. It’s a design that responds to any device’s width to automatically fit the screen and maintain a proper format. It’s growing even more popular as most WordPress & Joomla themes created now are responsive. As opposed to creating a dedicated mobile version, the same content is served both on desktop and mobile and the same template is used.
- Once setup, both mobile and desktop are available through same URL.
- Same template and content for both desktop and mobile. No need to extra work on mobile website.
- No issue of trying to fix duplicate content.
- Almost same experience for mobile and desktop users.
- A responsive site might load slowly on mobile if the desktop version has loads of widgets like flash and videos.
- Choosing what to appear on mobile and what to hide may be a lot of work.
- Sometimes a responsive page can be extra long making users scroll way too much.
- Responsive designs don’t usually have good scores on Google PageSpeed Insight.
Dedicated Mobile Websites
As the name applies, this means creating a special mobile site or template for mobile devices but this is further divided into 2:
- Dynamic Serving
- Mobile URL
What is Dynamic Serving?
When this is set up and enabled, the server determines which content to serve by determining the device type using its UserAgent HTTP response header. The content is still served from the same URL as with responsive design but the content served may differ considerably. It’s usually a streamlined version of the full site served on the same URL. The template is usually different.
- Total control over what appears on the mobile website.
- Loads fast when done correctly since there are no unnecessary widgets to display.
- Content served from same URL.
- The need to optimize the mobile version separately may arise.
What about Mobile URL?
This may come in form of a subdomain as used by Facebook (m.facebook.com). This allows the mobile version of the site to be accessible from different URL. Users visiting the desktop version on their mobile devices are automatically redirected to the mobile URL.
- Same a Dynamic serving except for the issue or URL
- The issue of duplicate content may arise since Google may believe the same content is appearing on different pages. You have to let Google understand the relationship between the desktop and mobile version. Using the canonical tag may fix this.
- The redirect may increase the load time a little bit though it may be unnoticeable to regular users.
Choosing the right solution
Personally, I prefer a dedicated mobile site rendered by dynamic serving. This gives me total control over what appear to mobile users and at the same, I can optimize it without messing around with the desktop version.
Choosing the right solution depends on your needs as more people are going with responsive designs but before you follow the crowd, consider your users and the kind of experience they would prefer. Have you asked why Google uses a dedicated mobile site? Same with Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter? Always keep in mind that the site is for your visitors, not you.