Mobile Websites and Responsive Web Design – Myths & Differences Demystified!

December 18, 2014 by in category Internet Marketing and SEO, Web Design tagged as , , , , with 0 and 0
Home > Mobile Websites and Responsive Web Design – Myths & Differences Demystified!

The Myths and Misconceptions of Responsive and Mobile Websites


Responsive and mobile web design a controversial subject – there’s no doubt, mobile users have sky rocketed throughout 2013 and 2014, and set to surpass desktop users in 2015.

Makes sense to want to cater for mobile user’s right?

That being said, developing a mobile friendly site doesn’t begin and end with responsive web design.

Here is where I explain the pros and cons of mobile websites and responsive web design and why both options should be considered, before making a decision.

It’s important to know the differences between responsive web design and mobile web design. I will explain, and also clear up a few of the most common “myths” and also detail some of the options available for a mobile friendly site.

You’d be surprised at how many “big” businesses are not using responsive web design.

First let’s cover the differences between responsive web design and mobile web design.


Mobile Websites and Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web Design

A responsive website is a single website that’s been developed and coded in such a way it automatically fits whatever size screen it’s been viewed on.

Whether that be a smart phone, tablet or desktop PC, the website will automatically re-size. Adjusting the content, images and navigation to the users screen size – using CSS3 media queries to alter how the page is rendered.



  • The main advantage of responsive web design as oppose to mobile web design is there’s only one site, one URL, and one SEO strategy. CSS is used to alter how the page is rendered,  as oppose to a completely separate mobile site.
  • Responsive web design is also recommended by Google where ever possible, as having a site with one URL enables Google’s “algorithms to assign indexing properties to your content.”  Google also state responsive websites are a lot more efficient when it comes to Google bots crawling the sites content.
  • Responsive web design is a lot cheaper to develop, manage, maintain and keep on top of, compared to a mobile site.


  • Due to responsive websites loading the same that the desktop version does, this can bear down on site speed, (if not developed properly and on page SEO conducted) – compared to the load time of a mobile designed website.
  • With a responsive website, you don’t have the same ability to remove and tailor separate content to specifically target mobile users, in the same way you do with mobile web design.
  • Most mobile devices in use today support the code that’s used in responsive web design. However, there’s still users that use devices that rely on CSS2, meaning those users with older mobile devices would be presented with the desktop version of your site. Due to their device not supporting CSS3 code, which is needed to make responsive web design display, responsively.


Mobile Website Design

A mobile website is specifically designed for mobile devices. A mobile website is a completely separate website from the desktop version, and held on a separate “m” URL.

Take for example who have implemented a completely separate mobile site –

When viewing the mobile site on a desktop you see the clear differences in mobile design and layout (Not intended to be viewed on desktops) but it’s a good example of the separation of a mobile website.

Take a look at how the mobile site displays on a desktop and mobile device, this is clear example of mobile web design.


Main Desktop Site –

Viewed on a desktop PC or laptop.



Mobile Site – 

When viewed on a desktop PC or laptop.

Mobile site - harley davidson


Mobile Site –

When Viewed on Mobile Device (SmartPhone)

Mobile Wb Design



  •  Mobile web design can offer huge benefits when it comes to SEO campaigns. Mobile web sites allows you to have a mobile specific SEO strategy – directly and additionally, targeting search terms (keywords) mobile users are searching. Giving a much broader marketing scope.
  • With a mobile site, the speed and load time is a lot faster, because you have the ability to choose what images, files, and CSS your mobile site needs.
  • With a mobile site you also have the ability to tailor a mobile website, directly for mobile users. Allowing content to be crafted specifically for your mobile audience. Navigation and layouts can also be targeted for mobile users.


  • Mobile websites may not be the most suitable option for all businesses, as essentially this is two separate websites. Which means two separate sites to maintain and manage. Also meaning two separate SEO campaigns and two separate URLs.
  • Many users don’t feel comfortable with a separate layout and a different user experience, especially on tablets. Which can cause frustration if mobile web design is not easy to navigate.
  • Mobile web design can be quite heavy on a budget and resources in terms of development, management and maintenance.


More details on SEO for Responsive and Mobile Web Design can be found here

For expert, results driven SEO services tailored for Mobile Websites and Responsive Web Design click here.


Popular Myths and Misunderstandings of Responsive and Mobile Web Design

People are prone to media hype, it’s in our nature.

When the hype is then duplicated all over the web it breeds ground for many misconceptions. Just like the controversy surrounding mobile friendly web design.

Here’s a few common myths and misconceptions around the topic, I want to demystify…


Responsive and Mobile Web Design


Myth 1: Mobile Website Design is outdated and a thing of the past

Fact: A ridiculous statement I want to prove a point on, by no means is mobile web design an outdated practice that’s been replaced with responsive web design.

Both types of web design for mobile users have the exact same goal – to improve user experience and cater for the mobile audience.

Whether it’s responsive or mobile web design, each serve their own purpose, offering ease or flexibility – depending on the business goals, audience, budget and resources.

Take a look at the examples below, well known very popular websites where some have chosen a responsive web design, while others have adopted for a separate mobile site.


Well Known Websites Using Responsive Web Design 

  1. Tesco
  2. Sky News
  3. Currys
  4. Gumtree


Mobile Web Design Used By Well Known Websites 

  1. BBC News
  2. Harley Davidson
  3. House of Fraser
  4. Argos

To check for yourself simply visit any of the responsive websites listed above and re-size your screen.

You will see the site automatically adjusts, altering its layout to meet the size of the screen.

You can do the same with the mobile web design sites that’s listed.

Notice when the screen is reduced to tablet or smart phone size, how the sites don’tautomatically adjust like the responsive sites did.

Instead, the mobile web sites have a separate web site specifically designed for their mobile audience.

When you access a mobile site (any of the above) with a mobile device such as a smart phone, check the URL of the site. You’ll notice it’s on an “m” URL, as shown in the Harley Davidson example above.


Myth 2: All businesses should have a responsive web site 

Fact: Responsive web design is the popular choice for many businesses, due to responsive sites being less expensive to develop, maintain and a lot easier to manage.

That being said, responsive web design is not one size fits all.

Depending on what information your mobile audience seek when on your site, will depend on which option you choose.

A great example of this is a mobile site developed by Forakar Labs – 


Responsive and Mobile Web Design


They chose to develop a separate mobile website due to analytic data that showed mobile users would seek information on treatments, side effects and general symptoms.

Whereas desktop users would seek information on less on less priority subjects such as recipes, general tips on exercise and nutrition.

Forakar Labs noticed that a large amount of mobile users would land on the home page, attempting to navigate to the content they were searching and landing on the home page more often than not due to “thumb” typing on a mobile device.

The solution was to build a separate mobile site. (As shown above)

Focusing on the key information mobile users were looking for, by removing the content desktop users would search such as recipes, lifestyle tips and nutrition advice.

This is just one example where a responsive website would not be suitable for the audience or goals of the site.

If a responsive website had been implemented, removing content and targeting key categories mobiles users where trying to access would not have been possible.

( have recently adopted a fully responsive web design due to the goals and strategy of the site evolving).


Myth 3: Responsive sites are slower to load and lose traffic

Fact: Responsive websites don’t load as fast as mobile sites, this due to responsive sites loading the same set of assets as the site does when viewed on a desktop.

This can cause slower load times compared to a completely separate mobile site where you have the ability to remove content and chose which assets to load.

The fact is, a bad workman always blames his tools. Responsive website or any website for that matter will only loose traffic due to poor development, maintenance or management.

If a jobs worth doing, its worth doing right. Whether you build a responsive site or a mobile site, it has to be done correctly to gain optimal results.

Responsive sites will never be as quick to load as mobile sites,

However, bear in mind there’s positives and negatives of both.

If a responsive site is well built and correct on page SEO has been conducted there should not be huge issues in load time or site speed.


Myth 4: Mobile sites are not favored by Google, Google prefers website to be responsive

Google does recommend using responsive web design where ever possible, but that doesn’t mean to say mobile web sites are penalized.

Google realize the pros and cons in both responsive and mobile web design. Google also acknowledge some sites require two separate websites, to serve a mobile audience with content more targeted to what their searching for.

Google even provide advice for web masters that’s implemented a mobile site, offering guidance and best practices.

More details can be found on Google’s developer site –  how to implement device specific, mobile web design. 


Final Thoughts On Mobile Websites and Responsive Web Design

In conclusion, both responsive web design and mobile web design have their own features and benefits.

It’s fair to say, both serve the demands of the mobile internet world in their own specific ways.

Each with the same goal – to cater for their mobile audience and improve user experience.

Depending on your site, audience, budget and resources will determine which option best fits the needs and goals of your business.

Lizzie Thomson
Creating, developing and imagining is the place I love the most! Great websites take more than just great design. A great website, deserves great digital marketing! Web Design and Internet Marketing both parallels that drive the addiction I have for the fascinating world of the web! Digitally crafting concepts into completion and making websites be the best they can be in both performance and design, is my daily drive and commitment!

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