Mobile has been and still is a hot topic in the web design community. Pretty much since the first iPhone was released there has been a growing trend for consumption of websites through mobile devices.
It's expected that mobile devices will overtake the traditional desktop as the primary method for accessing the Internet in the next few years and because of this many blog posts are screaming out that websites need to become mobile friendly as soon as possible.
But is this true in all cases?
The problem is that these articles are based on big generalisations that mobile traffic is increasing throughout the Internet; which is true. But when you look at the traffic of individual websites the data might paint a different picture.
Not every website is seeing increases in traffic or revenue from mobile and tablet devices. In fact some websites are getting barely 1% of traffic from non-desktop devices. And so in these instances the question of having a mobile friendly website isn’t so clear cut.
The (fairly) new solution to the mobile question is Responsive Web Design (RWD). It allows for the creation of a single website that adapts to multiple devices and screen sizes without the need to create or maintain multiple versions of a website.
Though some do convert fixed layout websites to become responsive it’s our experience that to achieve the best results it’s necessary to rebuild and redesign a website with these techniques in mind.
With the right web agency, when you compare traditional fixed layout websites to their responsive counterparts there is little difference in terms of cost and many agencies will produce a responsive website as standard whether they’re asked to or not. At Bronco we tend to make that decision on a client by client basis as for some clients it’s a complicated subject to grasp.
When to make the change
If a website is getting a lot of mobile traffic then the question of building a responsive website is a fairly simple one; Yes. But if the traffic isn’t there the decision comes down to cost and the lifecycle of the current website.
Every website has an expiration date where a website no longer allows you to make the updates you want to make or at least not in a way that brings the greatest benefits to the company or its customers.
If a website is already reaching this point then making the next version responsive is a good idea whether the mobile traffic is there or not. The more difficult decision is what to do when you’d not otherwise be looking to make that change.
In this instance we’d usually recommend waiting until you have other reasons to redesign than just wanting a mobile friendly version. For many businesses they need to see a return on investment and having a new website created solely for the purposes of being mobile friendly when the traffic isn’t there to support it is not a wise decision.
Instead any investment can be better spent to make other improvements for the users you do have and when the website reaches the end of its natural life then a responsive version can be built.
Not clear cut
So the question of having a mobile website isn’t as simple as people make it seem, sure in an ideal world where cost isn’t an issue then it’s a great idea. There aren’t many people that would tell you having a mobile or responsive website is a bad idea.
But for those who live in the realities of business you have to look to what your users want and how they interact with your current website. If your website isn’t already due a change then this information has to inform the decision to go mobile, otherwise you might find yourself with a great new website but no additional revenue to justify its existence.