3 Ways to Build a Mobile Website

Ipad And Iphone

There are more mobile devices on earth than there are people. More than half of us have smartphones, and for half of mobile phone users, their device is their primary internet source. Just one more statistic for you: more than a quarter of all internet searches are conducted on a mobile device. A few years ago, you could get away with a desktop-based site. Not today. To reach your audience, you have to go where they are, and they are on the go. Here are the three ways you can accommodate mobile users.

Separate Mobile Site

With this option, you maintain a desktop version of your site and a separate mobile version. This has a few benefits: you can create a fully customised experience for your users. If, for instance, A/B or multivariate testing reveals your mobile users prefer infinite scrolling while your desktop users like vertical. You can also pare down your “big” version and create a simplified, streamlined mobile site that loads faster. Another plus is that you can employ HTML5 and other technologies without having to worry about compatibility.

Why not opt to create a separate mobile site? Well, it costs more, and that’s certainly a big consideration. Another issue is that if you have users who rely on both traditional and mobile versions (think of an Amazon shopper who likes to search for gifts at a coffee shop and then purchase at home), they may dislike having two separate experiences. It may create a disconnect and reduce the efficacy of the mobile site. Think about SEO, too. While having a separate site does not have to hurt your rank,  you will have to be on top of your redirects to make sure.

Dynamic Serving

With this option, you use the same URL, regardless of what type of device is attempting to access your website. So, how does a site load optimally for, say, a desktop, an iPhone, and a Galaxy? The specific devices employ User Agents. When the user agents request the site from the server, the server delivers the correct HTML for that particular device. This is beneficial because you only need one URL.

On the downside, Google  may not recognize the mobile HTML set, so you have make sure that you point the content out to the bots. The bots will need to crawl the content with different user agents, and redirecting them can be tricky. Check out Google’s help page for more information on that, if you choose dynamic serving. Another issue is that you have to continually update user agent strings for new mobile devices as they come on the market. Finding this information can be difficult, especially when the devices are brand new.

Responsive Web Design

This is the method that web design experts typically recommend. The website uses only one URL and responds to the type of device on which it is viewed. All devices read the same HTML. How does it work? CSS changes the page dimensions and the layout to fit smaller screens. Googlebot and Googlebot Mobile need to be able to crawl your CSS, Javascript, and images, and this reconfiguration process is automatic. No page redirects mean sites load faster; there is just one URL; and bots can crawl more efficiently and index more often; and mobile experiences are the same as desktop. This can be a big plus for many users who want that continuity.

The downside is cost and technical difficulty. Responsive web design is highly technical in terms of implementation, so an experienced web developer is an invaluable asset.

How are you going mobile?

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