What is a mobile friendly site? According to Google, it’s a site that avoids old or outdated software that is not commonly used on mobile devices (like Flash), incorporates large, easy-to-read text sizes, and adjusts content to fit the screen size so users don’t have to scroll or zoom. Additionally, since mobile users are tapping— not clicking— the links on a mobile site are set far enough apart so that your user can easily tap the correct link.
There are several options for mobilizing your site. Let’s look at the four most common types- mobile friendly, m dot, mobile app, and responsive.
A mobile friendly site is simply a trimmed down version of your regular site. In this case, many design elements are either altered or eliminated to ensure an aesthetic appearance on a narrower screen, a better user experience, and higher interaction rates. “A mobile friendly website is essentially when your regular website shrinks down to be small enough to display on a mobile device. It looks like a tiny version of your website. There’s a lot of zooming, pinching and scrolling going on, but the site displays and functions. It can be a less-than-ideal user experience, but at least your site is viewable.” Marion Jacobson, Dex Media
M Dot, or Separate Mobile Site
The “m dot” site is actually a separate site created specifically for mobile devices. The mobile version is designed to be viewable on the smaller screens of mobile devices and often has an entirely different look than it’s traditional counterpart. This separate site is also hosted on it’s own domain. For example- Facebook’s mobile site is http://m.facebook.com rather than http://facebook.com.
Mobile Apps have to be downloaded and installed on devices before they can be accessed by users. They are most commonly used by large businesses that already have an engaged following and receive a heavy amount of traffic. Because they require an initial step from the users, this option may not be the best for smaller businesses or start-ups.
Responsive sites are coded to respond to varying screen or browser sizes. This type of site seamlessly rearranges itself to fit different browser window sizes and screen resolutions. A responsive site keeps the original design of the website in tact, while scaling the size of text and images, changing the layout of columns, and modifying the navigation bar to conform to the new viewing window. A responsive website is designed to work for desktops, laptops, and mobile devices — and to look great and provide a cohesive user experience on each one.