Do you need a mobile website?
With the growing number of people using mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets to browse the internet having a website that can cater for those visitors is becoming ever more important.
Ensuring your website can be read easily on a smaller screen and it can be navigated via touch screen are just a couple of the things required by a mobile website. When you start to consider the huge range of mobile devices on offer, the rate new devices are coming out and the speed that software is developing on those devices it becomes easy to see how easy it for business owners to go wrong.
Having a separate mobile website
The most obvious route to take is to have a completely separate website designed specifically for mobile devices. Setting up a mobile sub-domain (e.g. http://mobile.yourwebsite.com) and having all mobile traffic diverted to there instead of your main website will ensure that anyone finding your website on a mobile device will see the right version.
The downside to having a completely separate website for mobile devices is that it then means you have two websites to manage but you do then get the ability to tailor your website for those users. You could argue that people using mobile devices are likely to be in the younger section of your target market so you may find it valuable to tailor your mobile website for that age group.
Having a separate mobile website that works off your main website
To save time managing your two websites you could build a mobile website that works off your main website. In a very basic sense you could copy the structure and content of your main website but you could take it as far as having it run off the same content management system. You would then be able to use the same mobile sub-domain method to direct traffic automatically to the correct version of the website.
The obvious advantage is that this saves time over having a completely separate mobile website. How much time will depend on you but the down side is that it offers less flexibility to tailor your mobile site for those users.
Having one website that works for both mobile and PC based browsing.
Modern website coding techniques now mean it is possible to design and build websites that work just as well on mobile devices as PCs. Responsive designs can be used to adjust the layout to suit the various screen sizes available. Combined with a good navigation system and page structure you can end up with a site that looks and works great no matter what device it is viewed on.
A popular example of a Responsive design is the Boston Globe website. If expand and reduce the width of your browser window while viewing the Boston Globe Website you will see the width of the columns react to the change, the images change size and the number of columns change dependant on the width of your browser window.
Having a responsive design negates the need for a mobile sub-domain but also limits any additional tailoring you can do.