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Custom mobile site or responsive design?

I had an interesting conversation at a meetup a few days ago, and again today with someone else. In terms of making a site mobile-friendly, there seems to be a growing divide between two camps:

1 -- Mobile Site: Create a mobile site that is different than your main site, but typically includes most of the content.
2 -- Responsive Design: As the resolution of your user shrinks, the content on the site adjusts to fit (often with sidebars disappearing, etc).

I'm inclined to be in group #2, since determining what a "mobile" device is can be difficult. While the situation can vary depending on the need, choose your preferred option below. Vote and then leave your thoughts after that.
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Noble Ackerson's profile photoMickey Mellen's profile photoChip Oglesby's profile photoAli Green's profile photo
10 comments
 
I think option 2 requires less work but I personally do option 1.
 
I voted for responsive, however delivering a ton of content in the form of additional markup, CSS, and JavaScript only to have it never get used or seen is incredibly wasteful and taxing on mobile devices and mobile connections. Plus you end up tying your experiences together for no real reason and you end up in a situation where you constantly have to worry about making a change to one site and having it affect the others.

Many approaches I'm seeing lately from companies with major mobile we presences are doing responsive design, but on the server side as opposed to the client side. Basically you sniff device types on the server side and serve up dynamically packaged resources and content that will work on that device. For instance there are a ton of things you can do in mobile safari that you can't do in the native android browser, and you want to have an optimized experience for both platforms. Simply delivering one monolithic code base of js and CSS with a ton of logic blocks for each case creates a ton of bloat that you have to maintain and deliver to the client. Simply not feasible if you want to have a great mobile web experience.

But then again if you just want a simple mobile web experience to augment your main site you don't really need to take these additional steps. So in that case I would chose a standalone mobile site since the major goal is to provide the most optimal mobile user experience. As expected, the answer is really not straight forward ;)
 
Question for you +Mickey Mellen if you used a book as your door stop, is it a book or a door stop?
I've had these same debates about native or web apps, and there is never a winner because it depends on the project.
Always remember, the solution can't always be one size fits all and the your mobile solution may need to be mobile optimized and responsive.
I'll answer both, especially since mobile sites now expand anywhere from 3“ to 10.1" screens.
 
I'm inclined to go with a mobile site that has responsive design. Calls to action and copy, coupled with buyer intent are different in both situations. 
 
Wow, agreed -- great article! I can relate to so many of their points and value many of their suggestions. Ready to take on a custom responsive site, +Mickey Mellen? :)
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