If you want to optimize your website for your customers “on the go,” both a mobile site and a responsive design will do the trick. Each will offer faster load times and easier navigation. However there are a few differences.
Let’s examine the advantages and disadvantages of both mobile solutions with a quick Q&A
How Future-Ready Will Your Website Be?
A responsive design is a better return on investment. The technology involved with responsive design is more “forward-thinking.” Once added to the site, it works for next month’s, and even next year’s, devices without having to re-program the bones of the site any further.
A Mobile Menu on your website with have higher maintenance and expense in the long run. This option needs to be reworked constantly in order to keep current with next-generation mobile browsers and phones.
How Will Your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Be Effected?
A responsive design is a better option for stronger SEO. Responsive design simply embeds new code on the back-end of your website, which keeps the link for your company well-preserved.
A mobile menu is less advantageous in terms of SEO benefit. A site with a mobile menu uses a separate domain. Links that are shared from mobile browsers don’t count as “search link equity” in terms of directing traffic to your primary site.
Will Your Domain Name Be Effected?
“Maintaining a single shared site preserves a canonical URL, avoiding complicated re-directs”
Responsive design means that you get to keep your own domain. Nothing changes, except for the code on the “back-end.”
With a mobile menu design, your domain will be diluted, which will hurt organic search traffic. You will have to maintain two separate areas of content and with a mobile site you’ll need to create a different domain. The name itself can be almost identical – but it will be different and counted as two by search engines.
Which is a Better Experience For Your Customers?
A responsive design is a wonderfully flexible solution on all devices. In responsive design, the device will do the work, and will automatically adjust itself according to the screen size of any device (large or small). Responsive design can also switch intuitively between landscape or portrait orientations on the fly.
If it is too expensive to redesign your website responsively, creating a mobile menu for your site is still a good choice for the time being. A mobile menu or site is essentially a copy of your website. The server does the work to deliver a page that is optimized, smaller, and easier to navigate on mobile devices. Although less “nifty” than responsive design, this can really customize a unique experience for mobile users.
After reviewing the pros and cons above, the question of whether or not you are losing sales because of poor mobile user experience is one best answered by you, the business owner. It really comes down to what you can afford, and how much you rely on your mobile user in order to generate or actualize sales for your company. With approximately 87% of all online searches happening on a mobile device, moving to a responsive website design now could keep you ahead of the competition or even help you capture more attention online, if your competitor's mobile experience isn't as positive as yours.
If you have the revenue, a responsive design is truly the best for user experience, and a great investment going forward with the intention of “keeping up with the times.” However if you’re a smaller company and you don’t have the money to sink into a custom responsive design right away, it’s not the end of the world. You can make a mobile menu work for you or look at building a new site more affordably using a template with a responsive design as a base, until you’re ready to make the digital leap into something more custom.