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The Pros and Cons of Responsive Mobile Website Design

Responsive Web Design is the Google-approved way of creating a website so that it appears differently — but functionally — on desktop devices, tablet devices, and mobile devices. Because an ever-increasing percentage of search traffic is coming from mobile devices, it’s essential for any Internet-oriented business to have a website that can deal with mobile devices — and your choices are to have an entirely separate mobile site, or a single Responsive site that handles both sources of traffic.

Pros
The most significant benefit to responsive website design is usability — people accustomed to your desktop site will find your mobile site has the same basic functionality. It may (and probably should) appear differently, with some content moved onto tabs or deeper within the site — but it’s all there. Brand recognition is instant, as the same style appears across both types of device.

The second advantage is in having a unified website. This reduces maintenance costs, SEO costs, design costs, and so forth. That’s not a trivial consideration — in fact, it’s probably the single biggest consideration in this entire article. With lower costs involved, the responsive style of mobile website design has won a lot of adherents.

But it’s not the only thing to consider, naturally. There are also the…

Cons
The biggest con to responsive website design is that it can take a long time to get right. It’s relatively simple to put up a responsive website, but getting it right, so that your mobile customers really are being fed the content that they need to see the most and so that the site flows naturally from both desktop and mobile devices, can be a long trial-and-error affair.

There are also some browsers and rarely devices that don’t support the kind of CSS media query that responsive design uses in order to display content correctly. These kind of technical issues don’t come up often, but they do come up.

Finally, there’s the issue of purpose: there are some industries in which mobile users and desktop users simply have very different priorities. If you’re in the movie rental business, for example, a mobile user is much less likely to use your website to watch a streaming movie because their plans are bandwidth-limited — so having a separate mobile website devoted entirely to information about renting physical movies is more appropriate.