The difference between responsive web design and mobile websites, has been a topic of discussion during client meetings this week. Since, there appears to be some misunderstanding among people who are looking to build new websites and work outside of the web development community, I’ve put together this quick summary to explain the key differences between the two.

Mobile Website

When mobile phones were first able to display websites, phone and mobile browser technology was still rather primitive. This led to the trend of producing separate ‘mobile websites’ alongside the standard ‘desktop website’. These mobile sites would be displayed when a user loaded the site on a mobile browser.

Responsive Web Design

In recent years, mobile devices and their web browsers have matured and become ‘smarter’, this has seen the trend move away from mobile sites in favor of ‘responsive web design’ (RWD).  RWD involves applying additional code to the desktop version of a website so that it adapts to the screen size it is being displayed on to provide an optimal user experience. If a website is coded to be responsive, there is no need to have a separate mobile site.

Side note

I find it astonishing when I hit a website these days on my phone and its neither responsive or lacks a mobile friendly version.
As widely publicized, everyday more people are accessing websites via their phones, so anyone looking to develop a new site or re-fresh an existing site would be silly not to make their website mobile friendly.