The rise of the mobile device has changed the way that people are accessing, viewing and interacting with websites. With a increasingly larger number of people accessing the web from a mobile device — around 28% of internet usage in the UK is from a smartphone (set to increase with the introduction of 4G) — there have been three different strategies emerge to ensure that those accessing a site ‘on the go’ are receiving as high-quality an experience as those using a computer.
These three options are:
- Mobile Stylesheet (‘Responsive Design’)
- Mobile Optimisation
- Mobile Application (‘App’)
All three have pros and cons that need to be weighed up to choose the right solution for your site.
Mobile Stylesheet (‘Responsive Design’)
Responsive design applies a new stylesheet (CSS) over the top of the current site. The site then reacts to the size of the browser window the site is being viewed on to display only the most important information, avoiding having to zoom into a page to select the right option.
- Quick to create
- Easy to implement
- Widely Used (Google’s preferred solution)
- Superior User Experience
- Single URL
- Does not strip out large files (can cause longer loading times)
- Users can only complete transactions whilst connected to the web (Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G)
- Forced compromise — have to consider both responsive and full site in design process
A mobile stylesheet is recommended for those for whom accessibility and speed is a high priority. The single URL also helps strengthen SEO ratings, and also means that any content updated on the full site doesn’t then have to be replicated on a mobile site.
Mobile optimisation requires a different site of HTML templates to be built and styled. These will then be shown every time the site is accessed from a mobile browser. As it uses a different set of templates, the site also has its own URL — typically beginning with m. — and strips down the content to only the most necessary.
- Ideal for activity based websites (Facebook uses it) and site with transactional functions
- Faster loading times
- Stores offline activity, and then uploads it next time a connection to the web is established
- Intensive to implement, especially if customised on a per client basis
- Different URL – although you can redirect
Again, the optimisation option is recommended for those who place high value on accessibility. Due to its nature it is suited to sites where people may want to engage in more activity and transaction based functions, and the advantage of storing data and allowing people to work offline adds to this.
Mobile Application (‘App’)
A piece of software native to the mobile device, an app recreates the website in a format which users can then download onto their device. Apps come into their own when handling a large amount of transactional activity — such as banking, retail and blogging/social media.
Because of the variables from device to device it is always going to require more financial and resource investment to design, build and test an app than other solutions. The regular release of mobile operating system updates also makes ongoing maintenance an issue — an app will need regular updates in order to work on every software version.
- Ideal for transaction based web services
- Doesn’t not require a connection to the web to do things
- Can provide an additional source of revenue
- Can store details to avoid having to re enter
- Longer development times
- Requires extra resource for supporting and updating different versions
- Stores user details – may pose a security risk should the user lose their phone
An app is the recommended solution if the user needs to participate in a lot of transaction and interaction. The strong integration with the other functionality of the device means that users can take advantage of ‘tap to call’ functionality in the app, or storing information in the calendar.