Responsive Design vs Mobile Sites

Imagine you want a website done and you want it to be mobile-optimized. You have two firms who want to take different routes to make the site look good on mobile – one wants to build a mobile-optimized site and the other wants to build you a responsive site. meanwhile, you’re sitting there wondering what the difference between the two is and why either one is better. We’re going to go through the differences in the two philosophies and the advantages of each for you.

To start off, both styles are meant to deliver a better user experience and website to visitors who look at your site on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. I’m assuming that we don’t have to discuss the merits of why we need to do a mobile-optimized site.


A mobile web site is a dedicated website delivering unique content to the user off of a subdomain. Think instead of just This allows you greater control over the amount and specificity of content delivered to your mobile users. A user is most often re-directed to the mobile version of their site based on the type of device being used.


  • Greater control over the content being delivered and greater segmentation of users.
  • Easier to manage and test.


  • Users often want the full site and get frustrated by having less or different content.
  • Re-directs can fail quite often and cause confusion.
  • Leaves the normal site looking bad on small desktop screens.
  • Must load a hefty php or javascript file to identify device type.
  • Virtually impossible to identify and segment all devices with the plethora of devices available. Literally thousands to identify and growing by the day.

Responsive Site

A responsive website is your same website on the same domain, just with extra code to deliver a different look to your mobile users. It will most often deliver the same content, simply in a different format depending on their screen size. You can see the difference in responsive sites simply by pulling in and out the sides of your browser.


  • Device agnostic – delivers smoother content for every single device – regardless of whatever new device may be released today.
  • Same content across the board and often loads faster.
  • Better SEO and user experience to have all users directed to the same site.
  • Degrades better in older browsers.
  • Generally requires less code – which results in faster load times.


  • Less finite control and segmentation of users. You can still deliver unique content to users, but it’s less graceful and not as search-engine friendly.

We here at Old Town prefer responsive sites to mobile-specific sites due to their increased flexibility and SEO capabilities. However, your site may need a mobile-specific treatment to deliver specific content to your users. Ask us today about which treatment might be better for you and to explore the capabilities of both in depth.