Responsive Design vs Mobile Site—Which Should You Use?


If you are creating your company’s website or updating your current one, a notable consideration is for it to be mobile compliant. According to a Google study conducted by Sterling Research and SmithGeiger, nearly 75 percent of users prefer a mobile-friendly site, and 96 percent of consumers say they’ve visited sites that were clearly not designed for mobile devices.

If you have not made your site mobile-friendly, you could be missing out on the opportunity to capitalize on a significant amount of potential customers.

The argument between choosing a responsive website design or a separate mobile site is highly debated, with both options having their advantages and disadvantages.

Before deciding on which you should use, consider the specifications of each as outlined below.

Responsive Design

Responsive design is a design style that responds and conforms to all devices. It adjusts fonts, images and webpages to fit everything from tablets, smartphones, desktops, and laptops. So, regardless of the device on which the content is being viewed, the user receives an optimal viewing experience.

Responsive design transports the same code to the browser on a single URL for each page, which makes it easy to manage in terms of configuration for search engines since the same page is delivered to all devices.

Mobile Site

A mobile site is technically a replication of your website, where the server works to deliver an optimized page that is smaller and simpler to navigate.

A mobile site may use its own domain URL, sit in the main website’s subdirectory folder, or it can even blend with the top-level site. A visible link on the full site will direct smartphone users to the mobile website. Optionally, redirection through automatic detection may be included using a number of web scripting languages, including JavaScript.


Now that you know what responsive design and a mobile site is, have a look at the table below to compare each one’s specifications and identify which is better suited for your business:

Features Responsive Design Mobile Site
Mobile friendly If coded correctly, responsive design can be mobile compliant. Fully compliant and responsive
Devices Desktops, tablets, smartphones Desktops, tablets, smartphones
Search implications Since responsive design only embeds new code on the back-end of your website, your company’s link equity will be preserved. Another domain will have to be used, so links shared from mobile browsers will not count as search link equity for your main site.
Ease of use It is not easy to use for the casual web user, but bigger companies can hire staff to create high-end user applications. Extra work for updating is a major drawback since you have to maintain two websites.
Domain name Apart from the code on the back-end, nothing else needs to be altered, so you can keep your own domain name. A separate domain name must be created. Many companies choose something like:
Speed Because the css media queries code (CSS3) for responding is to be included, the website will run much slower. If coded correctly, the mobile site will be stripped of any parts that normally slow down website browsing on mobile devices.
Updating an older site Adding css media queries code to your current website will make it more responsive. For larger sites, it’s best to add a mobile subsite so that you can gradually ease into mobile viewing. Once set up, you can replace your older site and make this your new, top level site.
Future proof Once added to a site, the technology of responsive design will enable it to work on forthcoming devices without having to be reprogrammed further. To keep up to date with the next generation phone and browsers, you may need to rework the mobile site.


Responsive Design: It is much cheaper to run and maintain responsive design. You’ll also avoid complicated annotation since only one URL is required. Additionally, there’ll be no need for complicated device detection and redirection.

Mobile Site: With a separate mobile site, there’s potential to optimize for mobile-specific search intent thanks to the differentiation of mobile content. A mobile site also allows you to create a fully mobile-centric experience for users.


Responsive Design: Larger pages that are appropriate for desktop viewing may be too slow for mobile loading. Responsive design does not offer a fully mobile-centric customer experience.

Mobile Site: Mobile sites require a higher cost of maintenance. Due to the bidirectional annotation, there are more complicated SEO requirements, leading to a far more erroneous functionality.

And the Winner (According to Google) Is …

Choosing the best option depends on your business needs, such as the purpose of the website, the intended target audience, and whether SEO plays a major role in your marketing strategy.

If SEO is important for your company and plays a huge role in your marketing endeavours, then it’s probably wise to choose responsive design for your mobile SEO strategy.


With a 67 percent search market share, it should matter what Google says. According to, “Google states that responsive web design is its recommended mobile configuration, and even goes so far as to refer to responsive web design as the industry best practice.”

This is mainly because responsive design sites have a single URL and the same HTML, regardless of whether it’s on a desktop or mobile device. This makes it easier for Google to crawl, index, and subsequently, organize content.

Additionally, responsive design is Google’s preference since it is more efficient for users to share, interact, and link to content when it is derived from one URL as opposed to a separate mobile site. For example, if a user shares content from a mobile site with their friend on Facebook who then accesses that content on a desktop, they will view a stripped down mobile site on their computer.

This is hardly an optimized user experience, and since Google is keen on user experience as a classified ranking factor, it’s important to take note of this for improved SEO.

Aside from improved SEO, ClickSeed reports that Google recommends responsive design in their mobile documentation because, “it’s easier to maintain and tends to have fewer implementation issues.”


Whatever your choice, be sure that it meets the requirements and goals of your company. Remember that mobile users should be a priority when it comes to increasing customers. According to the aforementioned Google study, 74 percent of people said they’re more likely to return to a mobile-friendly site in the future.

Identify what will make you more mobile-friendly and do that.