In recent years debate has unfolded on whether web designers should use responsive web design or build a separate, native mobile site. Responsive sites automatically resize elements on the page to fit whatever device is being used. Mobile-specific sites are specifically designed for mobile phones and native touch-screen functions. There are advantages to both, and strong feelings lie on each side of the ideological fight. For multifamily marketers, it’s important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each when evaluating mobile options for apartment websites, so you can provide your target audience with the best possible mobile experience, considering the intended mobile behaviors and preferences of current/prospective residents. So here’s a quick compare and contrast to help equip you for your team’s next mobile/responsive discussion:
Websites designed specifically for mobile environments are known for catering site content/functions to appeal specifically to mobile users’ intended actions when visiting your site. Mobile users generally want information quicker than users on a desktop. Mobile-specific takes this into consideration and is designed to get them what they need without the fuss or frills. They also provide calls to action (CTAs) that are most opportune for a mobile user’s likely stance in the sales cycle, which for apartment seekers would probably be “Call Today”, “Map it”, or “Submit a Guest Card.” You’ll also find that mobile sites generally have faster load times.
The biggest challenge with a mobile-specific site is that it requires a different code base from your desktop site. You’re essentially creating (and maintaining) two different websites, which can get expensive to develop and tedious to update. And while the content and function of the mobile-specific works amazing for the targeted mobile audience it’s created to serve (prospective/current residents), it may not serve outlying audiences (investors, job seekers, community members…) with the information they want.
Responsive websites have gained considerable popularity for the efficiencies provided by a single code base, which is less expensive to develop and easier to maintain. It also accommodates a far broader variety of devices, including tablets. Lastly, as Nathan Singleton with Property Solutions explains, responsive sites have stronger advantages for SEO, “With a responsive designed website, you don’t have workarounds and re-directs to deal with. Having a second site (mobile only, for example) fragments your rankings, since each site counts as something unique.”
On the flip side, responsive sites have potential for longer load times on mobile, and you run the risk that not all devices will ideally “respond” and resize as you intend and cripple the user experience. Using a responsive site can also impact reporting because it can be an added challenge to distinguish traffic source between mobile, tablet, and desktop—making it difficult to measure the effectiveness of targeted marketing campaigns.
The decision to go with a responsive site or mobile-optimized site isn’t one to be taken lightly. Before you make your choice, it’s important to clearly define specific objectives for site functionality, usability, and performance, and determine which option can best deliver what you need.