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Web Design Direction: Responsive Design or Mobile Application?

It is almost ubiquitous that, in this time and age, the smartphone has reached the majority of the world and is set to grow due to its low cost when compared to computers. Three out of every five online searches are now conducted on a mobile device. It is very clear that the mobile web is growing and growing fast. Worldwide mobile devices are expected to grow from 889 million units in 2012 to over 1.4 billion by 2013. Therefore, the trend then becomes the way users typically consume mobile data is through mobile applications rather than web pages. This poses a dilemma to web designers and to web design in general. Should it focus on standard responsive web pages or should resources be dedicated into building a purely mobile application?

Why choose the responsive page approach?

One size fits all.  A responsive page adapts to the user’s screen regardless of the device, whether a tablet, PC, or phone, while providing a seamless experience across said devices. The responsive design encourages consistency among layouts. Perhaps the most appealing advantage to using this approach is only one code has to be built to serve all layouts. Additionally, search engines will be able to crawl, index and organize the content of the responsive web pages.

Why choose the mobile application approach?

Customized and personalized experience.  By building a mobile application, the user experience can be tailored to what the designer exactly wants, and thus providing a better, more targeted experience for the user. The mobile application approach can be a method for collecting user data which can then be used to give better customized content. Also, with the addition of App Stores for various platforms, there is a possibility of monetizing these apps easily.

Deciding on an approach will really depend on the context of a web site and its need but it cannot be denied that the mobile trend is definitely influencing web design of today.

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