If you are a business owner, you have probably heard that you need to make sure your website is visible from mobile devices. If you've done some research, you may have heard about mobile website design and responsive web design. So which is best for your business?

What is Mobile Web Design?

Pretend for a moment that your website url is www.website.com. It's designed to work on a full size PC, and it works perfectly. A mobile website is a secondary version of the website, designed for a smaller phone screen, with limited content. This secondary version is usually hidden under a mobile url; in this case, www.m.website.com. Mobile phones will visit the mobile URL, PCs visit the normal URL and everyone is happy. Mobile website design has one primary drawback. You need to maintain two versions of the site at the same time. Anything you change on one must be changed on the other. Importantly, Google doesn't necessarily distinguish between mobile and PC versions of the site. That means content posted on both versions may conflict with the copied content rules. As technology changes, so too must your mobile site. New phones hit the market and you need to adapt your mobile site to work with them. However, you can't make a change that makes your site break on older phones -- it alienates part of your audience. As more and more devices enter circulation, your mobile site needs to keep more and more restrictions in mind. It quickly becomes a lengthy and expensive process.

What is Responsive Web Design?

Responsive design is a dynamically changing version of your site. A great example is the Northern Beaches Endodontics website. Resize your browser window as you view this page, and you can see how certain elements disappear or shrink to fit the smaller screen size. This is the basis of responsive design. A responsive website reads the screen size of the device viewing it and adjusts on the fly. Smaller phone resolutions have reduced content, large buttons to assist touch-screen navigation and limited multimedia content. Yet the "mobile" version of the page is the same as the PC version, only smaller.

Why Choose Responsive Web Design?

One of the best reasons to adopt responsive web design is simple. Google says you should. Responsive websites work with the Google web crawlers, and with users, much more easily. Google, of course, is more or less in charge of SEO on the Internet, and so following the company's instructions is a good idea. Another good reason is the expense involved with maintenance. Maintaining a responsive site is cheaper than maintaining a mobile site. This is especially true today, with dozens of different smartphones, tablets and small media devices that can access your website. In the old days, you could design a mobile site for a specific resolution, because you knew what that resolution would be. Now, there are so many different options that your mobile page is bound to fail on a few. For this reason, responsive web design is more resilient in the face of technological change. At most, you may have to adjust the size thresholds for certain effects. SEO is easier with responsive web design as well. Every visitor -- PC, tablet, phone or other device -- is served the same batch of HTML. With the exception of images and multimedia, every visitor sees the same content. You don't need to create mobile SEO and PC SEO pages. You don't need to worry about two versions of the same content potentially penalizing you. All of this means your SEO campaign is much cheaper to run The one pitfall with responsive website design is the number of companies that drastically over-charge for the service. Responsive design is quickly becoming essential in the business world, but some web development companies are charging obscene fees low quality service. Rather than fixate on the price alone, ask to see some prior work from the company you plan to hire. Chances are, if the company over-charges for lackluster products, you'll be able to spot it immediately. Quality design won't come cheap, but you'll know that you're not paying more than your design is worth. In the modern mobile Internet, responsive website design is the way to go. There is simply no viable alternative that works without alienating large parts of your potential audience.