Responsive Web design is buzzword these days. which means to create a same website and optimized for all devices.

There are also some website which convert the desktop websites into Mobile website

I also found these reasons against to it

In the world there are still many user are using internet on 2G. 3G is not available in every phone and in every country/city. So speed is a important factor to load only the required code, images on to user's mobile.

What are other pros to have a separate mobile website?

Are all things Content, images, interaction available on Desktop website should be available when user access the same site on Mobile?

One cons of separate mobile site with optimized content and images is maintainability because we will have to manage 2 site for Desktop and Mobile.


9 Answers 9


I think the decision between a single responsive site vs. multiple sites targeting different devices comes down to whether or not you are following LukeW's Mantra of 'design for mobile first'.

If you're designing for mobile first, then it's almost trivial to reconfigure the layout/flow to also accommodate desktop use. There are many other advantage as well...such as mobile forcing you to really focus on the User Experience...paring down the feature set to the core needs of the user. You tend to end up with a much less bloated, much simpler system when focusing on Mobile...which is also a huge benefit for the desktop users.

THEN, if there's still a need for some 'advanced' features for desktop users, there can be an 'add on' set of site features for them.

The biggest advantage to the methodology, IMHO, is all of the future maintenance. You now have ONE code-base. This is an obvious benefit for the dev team, and also a less-obvious benefit for end users (the primary benefit being that there won't be a split between functionality depending on what device they are using).

I think a good example of it being done incorrectly is Flickr. They have a mobile site that's pretty good, but maybe has only 75% of the features one usually needs. So one usually always needs to click on the 'desktop' version. The problem with the desktop version is that it's not optimized for mobile, so there are still things one can't do due to them relying on HOVER or FLASH. It's incredibly frustrating as a user.

I currently work on a project where we maintain the mobile version of a desktop app. Sadly, we have to do this because the desktop app was designed in isolation some many years ago and has such a poor UI, it simply won't work on a mobile device (think dozens of iFrames...ugh).

So, while we're building a pretty good mobile version, it's hard not to cringe at the amount of effort and money being wasted by having to teams maintain two separate code bases for the same system.

  • Same with Wikipedia site - I hate the mobile version and usually go for the desktop one everywhere. What is even worse - they have separate urls for mobile, so that shared mobile links show wrong version on desktop.
    – user97979
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 10:11

I think it really depends on what kind of site you are talking about: For blogs, small company sites and other small single purpose sites responsive is usually good enough.

For more complex sites responsive usually doesn't cut it, simply because mobile users have different goals and needs when visiting a website.

Here's a bit from Nielen's Mobile Usability Update: «The second point is more conceptual — and harder for some people to accept: When you have a smaller screen, you must limit the number of features to those that matter the most for the mobile use case.»


For sites that are being design from the ground up then following the mobile first approach will provide many benefits and fits naturally with the responsive design approach.

For sites that are now considering how to deliver to mobile simply applying 'responsive' techniques is unlikely to work or be acceptable to the business. They have almost certainly spent weeks if not months negotiating cross departmental content requirements and positioning for commercial and marketing reasons - now suggesting that the layout of pages will change dependent upon the screen size is not going to fit well.

Many successful mobile sites have been built as an addition to the desktop experience. Whether these are delivered as a separate site or managed through some form of device detection applying a redirect or selecting a mobile optimised template prior to page delivery is where the real decisions take place.

Applying responsive techniques retrospectively can be done but it relies on an extremely sound html structure - sadly most sites overtime loose what integrity they initially have.

Responsive techniques are the practice required to build future friendly sites - sadly they are not the only part of successfully delivering mobile experiences something most of the 'look mobile is easy' examples and blog posts don't actually mention.

The example you give in mobstac seems to be a service that repurposes a rss feed for mobile, interestingly for a mobile optimisation company their site is not responsive!


Since i agree with the first 7 arguments, I would answer your question indirectly, by talking about the process of selecting responsive web design.

If you answer "yes" to the following questions, I would recommend going with responsive design.

  • The size of your mobile and desktop pages is similar
  • You have the same architecture for both sites
  • Users will not need to go from mobile to desktop version while on their phones
  • The extra mobile CSS is not unmanageable
  • Your site does not include a large number of images.
  • You do not need to write a lot of extra JavaScript

So basically, i am careful not to have a lot of hidden content, large images and write a lot of extra CSS and JavaScript. Sometimes it is much easier to go with a separate site.

Good candidates for responsive web design are blogs and small sites. It will not be wise to try the approach on a large eCommerce site.

  • This seems like a very technical view. Be aware that mobile users usually don't have the same goals when visiting a mobile site vs. desktop site.
    – Phil
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 6:37
  • @Phil, it depends on the site.
    – Emil
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 11:31
  • @Phil a big part of responsive web design is removing less used features as screen space shinks, it's certainly not impossible to organize your smallest page to be a mobile oriented one
    – Zelda
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 14:03
  • @BenBrocka: Yes and this works fine with simpel pages, for complex pages you usually have to do more than removing parts of the content though (i.e. structural changes, new IA)
    – Phil
    Commented Oct 29, 2011 at 11:01

Responsive design is not just a buzzword, it's the way to go. Responsive design means serving a website which is appropriate for the device/resolution. Serving large images to a mobile device (slow download speed) is just bad responsive design. Your application should be smart enough to serve the appropriate image sizes based on the screen resolution that it's working with.

Building a separate site? Do you really want to maintain two separate sites that are nearly identical? If the feature that your mobile users want is only available in the desktop version, then you're going to frustrate your users.

Responsive design is really the only appropriate long term solution. Anything else is just going to be a "quick fix" and introduce inconsistencies and bugs that you will have to maintain in the future.


Some views from google on the subject, with the slant being on their search engine - more SEO possibly than the benefit for the end user:


  • 1
    Can you summarize that link rather than just linking to it? Just linking to external URLs don't really qualify as an actual answers to questions, but if you can describe the information found on that link and cite the link as a source and that will be fine as an answer.
    – JonW
    Commented Jun 26, 2012 at 18:23

Here's a very short answer. The benefits of a responsive design outweigh the benefits of having a separate web and mobile site. I'll expand.

The only real benefit to having a separate mobile site is that you can more easily optimize the user experience and assets for the limitations of a mobile environment. However, given the state of mobile technology, I think these benefits can be realized with a responsive design.

The benefits of a responsive design include the obvious ones: a single codebase to work with and the bravado of working on the leading edge. I think one of the less tangible, but still overwhelmingly positive, benefits you get out of designing responsively is better code. You are forced to think of your design and craft your code in a well-organized, modular fashion. This yields dividends for a long time. Also, the toolkits for responsive designs are getting better, so you can target assets or functionality nearly as easily as you could if you had two sites.

I believe you'll get more long-term benefit from a responsive design.

P.S. - Check out the buzzword "Progressive Enhancement" as well. It is applicable to this discussion.


What are other pros to have a separate mobile website? --> there are no pros. The mobile screen size is so fragmented anyway that even if you make a separate website it will have to be responsive too.


I would argue for the case of having a separate mobile website not just in terms of the visual design and technical differences such as screen sizes and touch interfaces.

I think the most important thing to note is that the user's purpose for using your mobile site might be vastly different compared to using the desktop site.

For example, let's assume you are running a site for a pizza place. The most important information a mobile user would want are probably:

  • Your address, contact details and opening hours
  • The menu
  • Perhaps a simple form for making a booking or an order

Contrast this with the desktop experience, where users might be more keen to explore. They might, for example, be interested in the pizza making process, and perhaps even where you source your ingredients, and links to those sites. They might even be interested in the history of your restaurant and other "interesting" pieces of information.

So in short, my opinion is that it is always better to have a separate mobile site incorporating features that will be useful for users on the go or not requiring the full desktop experience.

  • 3
    There's a lot of 'mights' in this answer...which really goes back to the concept of designing for mobile first. When you design for mobile, you tend to focus on what the user NEEDS rather than MIGHT need. By focusing on core needs, you typically give the user what they want...without the cruft of all the 'mights'. And that benefits a desktop user too.
    – DA01
    Commented Oct 28, 2011 at 17:03

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