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I'm in the process of developing a review/rating site similar in functionality to Yelp (but on a smaller scale) and I'm going with a Mobile-First approach, and was wondering if I should just make the whole thing responsive, or would such a service be better suited with a separate mobile site?

From what I've gathered responsive designs are more suited to content-heavy sites as opposed to more "task-based" sites like say Gmail but obviously on a site like Yelp you have lists of businesses, lists of user reviews, etc, etc so I was thinking responsive might be the right approach. The biggest problem i've envisioned would be keeping the mobile experience from loading all the heavy assets that would be easier to retrieve on a desktop/desktop connection but all other features (location based, etc) can be done with HTML5 API's right now (from what I can tell).

Would appreciate some feedback on the matter if anyone has good insight into this.

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Mobile-first is the way to keep the weight down of the small-screen presentation of a responsive site. More resources can be loaded only for large screens if desired by using media queries to @import additional CSS and use JavaScript to bring in more content and install mouse-oriented input processing. Of course, without JavaScript the site will be substandard but you still can make it usable. This is a fairly new strategy and new techniques are quickly being developed to proceed this way, so you have to keep current on the technology. – obelia Feb 16 '13 at 22:02
There's no simple way to answer "responsive vs. separate mobile site". As is, this question is overly broad. – DA01 Feb 16 '13 at 22:58
@DA01 that's why i limited the scope of the question to cover a "yelp-like" site, given the type of site that is as opposed to a more "complex" web app like Gmail, etc – Ray Feb 16 '13 at 23:43
The 'type' of site has no real bearing on the question, though. There are so many, many variables involved with making the decision. – DA01 Feb 17 '13 at 1:20
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Of course it will work. In general - preparing a separate, mobile site is an approach of the past, and in many ways responsive web design is superior, e.g.:

  1. User ends up with only one link, no matter on which device he is, so he can send a link from his mobile to desktop and go to the same page.

  2. The site content is indexed just once by the search engines, always with the same address.

  3. You can provide similar user experience on various devices, by degrading some elements in the UI that are less important.

Anyway, should you create a mobile version, it should be responsive as well due to the number of the mobile devices: first, it needs to be prepared for touch, secondly - for different resolutions (from tablet to lores mobile phones). And in each case you have to focus on not only clear presentation of the content, but also on the size of navigation elements.

And if you worry about the transfer rates for the images, you can always use adaptive images:

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I think the 2-site solution is still viable but is becoming less popular and it takes much more resources to do it right. Other than that I think your advice is good. +1 – obelia Feb 16 '13 at 21:55
Well, it still is "a solution", but getting less and less popular. And indeed, the proper maintenance of separate, mobile website needs more resources. – Dominik Oslizlo Feb 16 '13 at 21:58

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