Responsive Design Vs. Building A Mobile Version of a Site

“83% of all mobile users say that a seamless experience across all devices is very important.”*

Suffice to say, to get the most out of your business website, it really needs to be mobile-friendly.


This year alone, 38.6% of global website traffic will be delivered via smartphones.


  • That’s an increase from 33.4% in 2015,
  • And an even further jump from 28.9% in 2014.**

And all of this change – just shy of a 10% jump – within the space of only two years.

What’s more, global smartphone usage already topped two billion back in 2015*, while the mobile access and use of the web overtook desktop browsing for the very first time, also last year.

So, in terms of making your business website ready, where should you be getting started? Well, that all-important mobile-friendliness is delivered in one of two ways. Either you opt for building a mobile version of your site, viewable only from smart devices with screen sizes smaller than a PC, laptop or tablet, or you go for having responsive design built right into your site.

Which should you choose? The Dauntless crew is here to help you figure that out.


What You Need To Know About Responsive Web Design



A responsive web build is a design approach that has exploded in popularity – funnily enough, as all of us have become ever more mobile. The focus of this approach is on crafting bespoke, dynamic and multi-device website experiences. This kind of solution is programmed to seamlessly adapt its layout and interface to any size of screen. It’ll likely move around images, lines of text and anything else to ensure consistent, easy-to-follow browsing for the user.

The Pros

Visual Cohesion – sites that scale responsively, according to screen size, retain their overall visual style much more naturally: consistency is key for confidence. 

Simplicity – You’re only dealing with one website, and just one URL.

Better Use Of SEO – with no need to create mobile-specific content only for smart devices, all you need is to enter just one complete set of metadata, instead of two. 

It’s Very Cost-Effective – this is the most cost-effective of all – you’re only building one website, which is always going to be cheaper than building two.

The Cons

Potentially Slower Development – given the number of possible variables involved in catering for screens of all sizes, building scalable responsive pages can – at first – prove more complicated to initially create.

No 100% Control – unlike with a mobile version of a site, you cannot control absolutely every last detail or rogue pixel to your liking.

Slower Performancepage loading times on a responsive site can take a hit – dependent on the number and size of JPEGS. In turn, this could impact negatively on UX and user satisfaction.


And What About A Mobile Version Of A Website?


Also referred to as mobile optimisation of a site, this essentially means running two websites alongside each other in parallel, via the same URL for the end-user – one of which is built to accommodate desktop browsing. The other is built to adapt to smaller screens: a mobile-only version is rendered, instead of the full desktop experience. This mobile version is formatted rather more stylistically, to make the most of its context.

The Features

  • Overall, a single column layout
  • Scrolling up or down only – no left or right/side-to-side
  • Large buttons for intuitive navigation
  • More sparse use of text
  • Prominent use of CTAs
  • Less use of imagery

The Pros

Very Speedy Load Times – this iteration is ideal for those on-the-go: it will load quickest of all, as there are typically far fewer large images, or even video, to be loaded.

Optimised Usability – this type of site has been built from the ground up for smart devices only. Crafting a bespoke, streamlined UI for this purpose this process is part of the fun.

Forward-Thinking – mobile sites tend to handle modern front-end technology, such as HTML5 and WebKit, more effectively. This means no worries about building in backwards compatibility for older desktop browsers.

The Cons

More Maintenance – you’re effectively maintaining two websites, instead of one. That means multiple site updates.

Universal Compatibility – this type of experience must be thoroughly tested across the full range of both iOS and Android devices. While it may load fine on an iPhone 5S, it might be a different story on a Samsung Galaxy S6.

Potential SEO Confusion – at best, you’ll likely have to create SEO from scratch, for both versions of your website.


Our Conclusion – Which Approach Is Better?

Let’s keep one fact in mind; nowadays, the consumer’s user journey is anything but linear, and could involve social media, buyer reviews, multimedia content and blogs as part of their research process.

A responsively designed, consistent experience across all of the above is what ties together multiple threads of an experience. This kind of familiarity underlines – in our own, Dauntless opinion – the advantages of responsive design over a mobile version. A uniform experience and consistency will always reassure and inspire confidence in the end user, every time.

Consumer habits are fickle and subject to constant change as it is. Your customers may very well find you via a mobile search, but may well also wind up completing the buying cycle from a desktop computer. If they instantly recognize the desktop website they encounter – as a natural extension of a site they visited via their mobile device – they won’t hesitate to click that ‘buy’ button. If it’s a noticeably different experience, that may be what puts them off.


* Source – Wolfgang Jaegel: [Infographic] ‘Mobile web usage in 2015 and onwards

** Source – Statista: ‘Percentage of all global web pages served to mobile phones from 2009 to 2016’