Lately, I have been looking at the best way to bring our products into the mobile environment. There are many decisions to make when deciding what the right way to go is. One of those decisions is whether to develop a dedicated mobile application for your site or to update the site with a responsive design. Here is a synopsis of what I have learned.

According to Wikipedia, “Responsive Web Design (RWD) is an approach to web design in which a site is crafted to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from desktop computer monitors to mobile phones).” This means the site content automatically adjusts size so it is easy to read no matter what device you are using. It is great for sites that have a lot of content, such as company sites, restaurant sites, or blogs.

Often, the biggest mistake is to make an app that duplicates your entire site. An app should have unique features and content not found on your site. Your mobile responsive site does not have to include every page and piece of your full site. You should create a mobile specific menu to give mobile users just what they need.

Reading lots of content on a phone is often difficult. With a dedicated mobile application, you can strip down the original website to just the basic functions you want to perform. You can give the user just what they need and leave the details on the original website. This is better for websites functioning as applications. This includes eCommerce sites where carts are created and orders are placed, and government sites that performs services like license renewals.

As with most decisions like this, it all comes down to creating the right user experience—one that will make the customer want to use the mobile version of the site.The main consideration is complexity. There is a threshold that when reached really demands building an app. With simple stuff, using responsive web is good enough, but for the more complex sites, a dedicated mobile app is the best way to go.