Native mobile app vs. Dedicated mobile site vs. Responsive design

A practical guide on how to choose the right strategy with multiple platforms in mind. — Part 1: The responsive business strategy

Choosing the right responsive design strategy is crucial to avoid costly design mistakes from the start. There are numerous technical and business aspects of a project to consider before deciding which strategy is the most appropriate in that particular case. Here below I’ve summarized the main aspects to make it easier to choose.

Responsive business strategies

mobile app vs.-dedicated mobile site vs responsive website

Native mobile App

Being downloaded to the users device it serves a highly personalized mobile experience with the purpose of driving engagement from loyal customers. A good choice if:

  • The site is very interactive
  • The target users are trend sensitive and/or impulse shoppers with high brand awareness
  • The native functionalities of the mobile device are required (calendar, notification, GPS etc.) for the full experience
  • Sources are available for a long term commitment to maintain and market an individual app

Dedicated mobile site

These sites are usually available on an ‘m.domain’ for users redirected from the main site, they are created exclusively for targeting mobile users with tailored content. A good choice if:

  • The business is very active online and needs a quick solution to expand the sales activity to a wider audience
  • A mobile version is required to make the main function available for the target audience but time and budget are limited
  • A temporary solution is needed until the legacy codebase is converted into a new online presence
  • For marketing purposes it is necessary to leverage the main site’s traffic (searchable, shareable)

Single (responsive) site

A single site built on a versatile layout to be available on various mobile devices and screen sizes (‘one site fits all’). A good choice if:

  • Sources are limited and cover the maintenance of only one codebase and the advertising of only one domain
  • The site/service is general, and no need for a fully mobile-centric user experience
  • There are no statistics available for mobile usage
  • The site needs to be compatible with wide range of device types

Whichever you choose it’s important to make the choice after thoroughly assessing the pros and cons of each method. Even if it means that you have to change your current plan, using the appropriate strategy for your project will pay off in the end.

Original summary: Native mobile app vs. Dedicated mobile site vs. Responsive design — Fluid vs. Adaptive vs. Fixed — Mobile first vs. Desktop first vs. Element first