With mobile internet traffic accounting for almost half of all the internet traffic, mobile internet users are a huge customer base that should be the target of any online business wishing to succeed. As a result, when most business owners are having websites built for their businesses, they take various measures to make their websites mobile friendly, thus accommodating mobile device users. These measures include building a separate mobile version of their main website or making the main website mobile responsive.

What is the difference between a mobile website and a mobile responsive website?

When paying for a website, you can choose either to have a mobile version of your website built or to have your site created with a responsive design. Despite helping to make your website mobile friendly, these two options are very different from each other, and the fact that most people do not understand the difference between them means that they end up making the wrong choice. To help you avoid this, below is a look at what each offers:

  1. A mobile site

A mobile website is a separate website, but similar to your desktop site, which is created with the sole purpose of being used by mobile users. Since the mobile sites are designed to accommodate mobile devices, which have a number of limitations compared to personal computers (less powerful processing power, smaller storage, smaller screens, smaller RAM, etc.), they are different from “desktop” websites in ways such as:

  • They have content that is easily accessible and readable
  • The web pages have fewer features to increase the load speeds
  • The websites are built to accommodate various interaction methods, for example, touch interaction for touch screen devices
  • The content is organized in a manner that helps to create a more efficient user interface
  • The websites are built to support all types of connectivity, including the slower 2G connectivity

All these aspects of mobile sites help to ensure that your visitors have a great user experience when accessing your site, thus making it easy to engage and convert them.

  1. A mobile responsive website

A mobile responsive website is a desktop site that is made mobile-friendly by optimizing it so that it can be easily accessed, even when using a mobile device. The optimization for mobile devices includes:

  1. Using an automatic screen resize feature that automatically resizes to the screen being used
  2. Optimizing the images to make them lighter
  3. Minifying (removing unnecessary characters without changing the functionality) the code used to develop the website
  4. Leveraging browser caching, which helps to increase the load speed
  5. Using a responsive layout that re-organizes itself to adapt to the device being used

All these, and other, mobile optimization techniques help to adapt your desktop site to all devices being used to access it. Therefore, your website is able to offer a similar user experience to users who are accessing it using mobile devices.

A responsive design or mobile website – which one should you choose?

Choosing between a responsive design and a mobile website is not an easy thing, as both options have different advantages and disadvantages. As a result, most people tend to go with the cheapest option, which in this case would be only having a responsive website built instead of paying extra for a mobile website. And while having a responsive design will still help to make your website mobile friendly, choosing this option is not always the best decision. This is because of a number of factors such as:

  1. Mobile websites have a better user experience

One of the reasons why it is recommended to have a mobile website instead of just building a responsive website is because the former offers a greater user experience to mobile users. This is because mobile websites are designed to be used exclusively with mobile devices, and thus their user experience is customized to be optimal when using a mobile device. On the other hand, responsive websites are designed to be used with various types of devices, meaning that various compromises must be made. Therefore, mobile internet users have a greater experience when accessing mobile sites compared to when accessing desktop responsive sites.

  1. Mobile sites allow your business to benefit from local search

Since most local searches are made by mobile internet users (when searching for nearby services such a restaurant, a taxi service, a hotel, etc.) having a website that offers a great user experience to mobile users will help you to attract more leads through local searches. In addition, having a mobile website will improve the user experience rating of your website, which can help to increase the search engine rankings of your website, thus allowing you to benefit more from local searches.

  1. Having a mobile site eliminates technical difficulties common with responsive designs

One of the main disadvantages of responsive website designing is that the website is optimized in order to adapt it to various types of devices, compared to mobile sites that are specifically built for mobile devices. Therefore, responsive websites are likely to suffer from various technical issues, which can include:

  • The website not resizing to fit the screens of some devices, especially the older ones
  • The layout of the website not formatting correctly
  • The website not being compatible with some devices, especially the ones using outdated browsers, and thus failing to load correctly
  • Slow load speeds when accessing the website using mobile devices – even with optimization, responsive websites still have many features that can lead to slow load speeds when using mobile devices

Having a mobile site helps to eliminate these technical difficulties, thus ensuring that both the mobile and desktop device users have a great time when accessing your website.

  1. Google’s Mobile First indexing

Another important reason why it is advisable to have a mobile site is because of Google’s Mobile First indexing, an upcoming change to Google’s search algorithm that will see mobile websites receive priority over desktop sites when displaying search results. Therefore, having a mobile website will help to ensure that you are ready for the rolling out of the new system, thus increasing the chances of your online business ranking higher in search engine results.


When having their websites built, some people chose to only pay for a responsive mobile design instead of having a separate mobile version website built. What these people fail to realize is that even with a responsive design, the user experience mobile device users will get is not as great as it would be if they were accessing a mobile site. This is especially the case when the desktop site experiences various technical difficulties, making it hard for the mobile users to access it. Therefore, if you want to have a website built for your business, you should consider investing in a mobile website instead of just paying for a responsive design. In case your budget does not allow you to have a mobile site, you can start with the responsive desktop site first, and then have a mobile website designed later. This will allow your business to reap the benefits of both solutions.