The number of people using mobile devices to access the web has skyrocketed over the past few years, making it increasingly important for professional services firms to make their websites mobile friendly. Even with a number of statistics to support this, many firms have not taken the plunge and implemented a mobile-friendly site.

And with Google’s recent major announcement that mobile-friendliness will be a search ranking factor starting April 21st, now is the time to invest in a mobile-friendly website.

But before you get started, it’s important to know the two main methods for doing this: responsive design and mobile sites.  In this article, we’ll explain the difference between the two and help clear up any confusion around these two approaches.

mobile website

Mobile's initial fix

When accessing the Internet via mobile devices was first introduced, web coders developed a way to create a separate version of a website that fit much smaller mobile screens.

When a user tried to access the website from a mobile phone, the site would recognize this and redirect them to a separate mobile site version.  A good solution? At first, yes. While this method allowed businesses to have a good mobile experience, this required the business to manage not one, but two websites.

If a change needed to be made to the desktop version of their website, they had to also make that same change separately on the mobile version of their site.  This caused webmasters to spend more time managing a second website, leaving more room for manual error as well.

Responsive's long term solutionresponsive design, freeman white

In more recent years, web coders have created a solution that allowed a website to automatically resize and reformat a website based on the screen size being used, rather than redirecting to a separate mobile website. This method is called responsive design. Not only does this solution target mobile phones, it also adjusts to appropriate size of tablets and any device that users would use to access your site.

SEE ALSO: Responsive Design: What It Is and Why You Need It

Which approach is right for you?

So what is the recommended approach for your firm’s website – a separate mobile site or responsive design?

While a dedicated mobile site was initially a good solution, today, responsive design is the preferred approach. In 2012, Google went on record, stating they prefer responsive website design over mobile sites.  Why?

  1. Requires a single domain: With a mobile site you’re required to create a separate domain, which can hurt traffic to your main domain as well as search traffic. However, with responsive design a separate domain is not required, so all web traffic is directed to a single URL, increasing traffic and avoiding a mobile site redirect altogether.
  2. Works for future devices: Once responsive is added to your website it will continue to work and adjust to future devices without further programming required. However, a mobile site could likely require regular updating to accommodate next generation phones, tablets, and browsers.

Remember, aside from the obvious user experience benefits of responsive design, the absence of a mobile solution for your firm’s website will soon affect your Google ranking.

Let’s recap: in November 2014, Google began testing a new algorithm that gave preferred treatment to websites that are mobile-friendly. Google took the next step in January and began sending mass notifications to websites that are not mobile-friendly requesting they “fix mobile usability issues” or their site will be “displayed and ranked appropriately for mobile users.” And last week, the search engine confirmed mobile usability will be a ranking factor starting in April.

So if you haven’t already invested in responsive design for your professional services firm’s website, now is the time. Consider not only the obvious user experience benefits, but the search engine advantages that are just around the bend.

In a world where our technologies are getting faster and smarter every year, optimizing your firm’s website with responsive design is an investment you’ll benefit from for years to come.

To get started planning a mobile-friendly website, download our free Professional Services Website Planning Guide.

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