Before deciding whether to go the responsive or dedicated web design route it is important to know what kind of content the site will be featuring. If the site will have lots of text, images, and/or video then creating a responsive website would be the most logical choice. There is little need if any to alter that type of content, which simplifies the transitions between different devices. Dedicated mobile websites may be a better choice if the content will be fundamentally different on mobile than on the desktop site or if there are lots of tabular like data. Although this type of content can be created to be responsive it’s not cost-effective.

While it’s true that responsive websites cost more usually, that is because they are quality adaptive websites that will need little maintenance in the future. Dedicated mobile websites are less expensive but as new devices are created they will have to be continually updated and maintained. Budget constraints may cause people to lean towards a dedicated mobile site but in the long-run, they will be paying more than they would for a responsive website.

In the end, it’s all about creating the best experience for your users. Kristofer Layon has applied the theory of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to the needs of mobile web users. Below is a simplified version of Layon’s Hierarchy of Mobile Needs to assess the quality of a website from a mobile user perspective.

Access – Can we simply connect to the website on a mobile device?

Interact – How well can the user navigate the website? Is the UI functioning properly?

Perform – Making your website simple is vital to the performance of your website for mobile users. Most people will abandon a website if it takes too long to load. Making sure to keep a webpage’s content around 1 MB will make it able to have lower load times for a wide range of mobile users. Keep in mind that technology is always advancing and the amount of information that is optimal for mobile users is always increasing.

Enhance – Utilize the capabilities of the mobile device. Sometimes users can do things on mobile that you can’t do on a desktop. Make the most of these features get creative and take the mobile experience to the next level.

Deciding which one is best comes down to the situation. What content do you have and what do you want it to do for you? Mobile devices are an integral part of the user experience of the web now and they will continue to be more important in the future. It is important that we keep pushing to make that experience better.