What is a responsive website design?
A responsive site is a particular type of website which shows different elements or sections of the webpage being browsed, depending upon the screen size of the device being used to view the site. For example, when viewed on your desktop PC, the site may be 3 columns in width, but when viewed on a mobile device, the elements are shuffled around so that the site only shows one column in width.
What is a mobile website?
This is a normal website, which is specifically built from the ground up to display text, images and other elements in a layout and font which is most suitable for viewing on smaller screens such as smartphones and tablets.
In simple terms, a responsive website is manipulated and massaged into showing the content from the site in the best way that might fit the screen it is being viewed on, whereas a mobile website is specifically designed for exactly that. It’s a bit like the difference between an ‘all rounder’ and a specialist!
Now, what are the potential problems at the moment with responsive web design? Well, lets have a look at a couple of them.
1) The ‘responsive’ part of a responsive site (the code which tells the site what layout it should display) is handled on the device viewing the site. This means that the ‘whole’ site is downloaded to your phone or tablet, then your web browser has to manipulate that code to show you what the code wants to. This is a big waste of resources both on your device’s CPU (uses more of your battery!) and internet bandwidth (uses more of your data allowance!).
2) What the viewer sees on a mobile device when viewing a responsive website is the ‘best compromise’ decided by the designer of the content on the site. In some cases, that makes a webpage massively long, or images too small etc.
With a mobile site on the other hand the content is optimized completely for viewing on a mobile device with no wasted resources, no compromises when it comes to the content being displayed, and best of all, mobile only functions available such as ‘click to call’ buttons amongst others.
The value of these benefits to small to medium sized businesses in particular, with limited marketing and/or time budgets cannot be underestimated!