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As smart phones and tablets become more popular, should you consider building a mobile website or a responsive website to accommodate this growing audience?

Here is some information to help you make a smart decision:

1. A Separate Mobile Website
A Mobile Site is an abbreviated version of your website so that it fits on various mobile platforms. You are targeting the hardware, not the user. A mobile website is maintained separately and would require double maintenance when updates are made to your main website.  As the technology changes and advances you could run into additional programming costs.

Mobile sites are minimal in design so that they load quickly and “get to the facts” quickly, so we would have to pick and choose what visitors are looking to access on mobile.  The point is to keep it quick and light weight. Eliminating extra material that adds to the load time. So, you are essentially editing your website and choosing what you “think” your visitors want to see.

You must also have a separate domain such as where this content is held and made accessible. This can actually dilute and hurt your organic website traffic and split your PageRank because Google is now reading two websites.  There is also a concern for error pages if the user is searching Google on the device and your abbreviated mobile website does not have a corresponding link to the content that does not exist on the mobile site. 

2. A Responsive Website
A responsive website is built in a way that the website itself  has fluid columns that move to accommodate all screen sizes. Again, the overall design is minimalistic so that it focuses on the information for your potential guests. (less “fancy”)
It is one website that fluidly flows to fit any screen regardless of what type it is from traditional monitors to iPads and tablets, down to any smart phone.
No need to update the site in two places, one site does it all.
This website is an example of this type of website. Try to drag and resize your browser window and you will see the content automatically resize itself.

With a Responsive Website everyone has access to all of the content of your website – you are not picking and choosing what they are going to see. After all, there is no way to guess what each unique visitor is looking for. The best solution is to keep the navigation at the top and let your visitor do the choosing.

A responsive website results in one website to maintain and focus on.

Google thinks this is the better solution:
“…maintaining a single shared site preserves a canonical URL, avoiding any complicated redirects, and simplifies the sharing of web addresses… [read more]

FINAL THOUGHT – Keeping the end user in mind.
If we abbreviate a website in order to go with a specific mobile site we’re assuming we know better than the visitor – whereas with one website that is flexible in sizing, they get it all and can choose what they want to see.