Responsive vs. Mobile vs. App

To know what is going to suit your need best, it is a good idea to understand how your site works and how people are most using your product. In this article, I will discuss some of the pros and cons of each.


Responsive design gives a more seamless integration of the website’s user experience interface and retains your organic website’s SEO strategy. You no longer have to build pages multiple times to fit multiple devices or write special java scripts to handle recognition of other devices and re-direct accordingly. By using responsive design, you also don’t have to worry about missing or leaving out content on a mobile site because it doesn’t look right.  The website will automatically re-configure based on a device’s screen size and/or resolution.

The down side is designing responsively is tedious and time consuming. It also requires quite a bit of testing while developing and a knowledge of advanced website technologies, such as HTML5. While many people herald the use of Bootstrap which can save time in some instances, it is not necessary. Understanding, however, how Bootstrap works and has become popular can be very helpful in the build of the site. Additionally, if you are transitioning an older site into responsive design, you need to transition all of your internal content. If you neglect to do this, the internal pages will not play nice.

From an SEO standpoint, responsive can also be difficult for those that are used to tracking mobile visitors specifically on the mobile platform. Luckily, Google Analytics and similar systems are becoming more adept at tracking the data across different devices.  The upside for SEO is that you only have to have one strategy because you only have one site.  The site will search and respond on a mobile device just like it would on a traditional site.

Mobile Specific:

Mobile specific sites are still very popular and common. They can be easy to build & set up and java scripts are readily available for plug-n-play use to re-direct if a mobile user is detected. Mobile specific sites, more often than not, are streamlined versions of a full site. For example, if you visit a doctor’s website it may have 60+ pages of information, content about the physicians and services, but the mobile version may only contain an overview of the doctors practicing out of that office, hours, directions and contact info.

The upside, if set-up correctly, is the ease of information distribution. If you are a band, maybe you only need a few photos/videos, links to your social media and your tour schedule. More advanced sites like ESPN put it all out there. The down side is that you have to duplicate all of your content.  The more site depth you have, the more information you have to build again.There can also be the upside of more specific tracking metrics, but this point is debatable.

Mobile Application:
This is an option that is falling off in popularity as more developers become adept at integrating web content into either responsive or mobile specific sites. The mobile application functions much like any other mobile app that would be downloaded to your phone– it is a program.

The positives for a mobile application really depends on what you are delivering. If it functions more as an interactive or social tool, then it can be good idea. However, if the function is solely to distribute the content that is already on your website without any significant extra benefit, then this may not be the best option.

Another thing to consider along the same lines of content distribution is cost. Most app developers charge a fee– one time, monthly, every update, etc. If you are not providing content beyond what you could deliver in a simpler format, why spend the money? Plus, sometimes you have to tell all your users to update; the company distributing it won’t do it for you, which can be a hassle and user turn-off.

And what about SEO?  If a person is using your mobile application, they are not converting on your website.  They may still be converting, but to what extent?  Does your mobile application have advanced analytics to understand and track a user’s interactions to be able to determine ROI?

Regardless of which option you choose, always consider the user interface experience: how will the user find the content they are looking for the fastest and the most gratifying and what will potentially lead to the most conversions?