Updated: Forked vs Responsive Mobile Design
2015 March 25
With the new Google Mobile-Friendly Push and algorithm changes pushed on April 21, 2015 there is a lot of debate of which is the best path to take when it comes to mobile interface design. Do you go with forked method or do you go with a active responsive design. Well, the answer is pretty simple - it all depends on your CMS.
The experience of using a mobile website should naturally be different from a desktop experience – not just visual presentation, content should be prioritized and structured differently. The risk, though, is that you’ll wind up maintaining different versions. News flash: this will be a disaster. Duplicate content. Out-of-sync updates. Wasted effort.
But what does a “separate mobile website” even mean?
Whether you’re talking about content or code, what you want to really want to avoid is creating multiple versions of your website. Doing so is called “forking”, and it’s a forking nightmare from a maintenance perspective and can inadvertently negatively affect your search rank. If you fork your website into separate mobile and desktop versions, then you’re stuck updating both of them every time there’s a change. Avoiding this problem is tricky, even with sophisticated content management systems.
Let’s imagine you have a static website that you created back in the late 90s. You have zero CMS, all of your content is hard-coded into your HTML.
You now decide you want to join the rest of the world by creating a mobile website. Great news! Except for the nightmare part which is you will now have to create a totally seperate website now, and now update both everytime you have a change.
Sounds fun right? Wrong, even for a company like ours, we’re going to suggest that we take control of your web venture by porting your content to a CMS like ExpressionEngine or even Wordpress (corporate world - gag). Why? We can then make as many different web frontends for your customers as you need, and correct your forking problem for forks sakes.
To recap, forking is essentially having two websites, a desktop version and a mobile version that most of the time are updated separately.
Responsive design is often held up as a solution that will save you from having to maintain multiple separate codebases for your frontend code. When you put the effort into developing one set of code that will adapt to different screen sizes and progressively enhance for different device capabilities, and you’ll save time in the long run. You’ll also get out of the arms race of having to support dozens of different devices and form factors.
Responsive also has its own flaws, it most likely will limit your ability to easily enhance your interfaces as you need unless you have a good development partner like us, you’ll inadvertently create more work and more costs down the road by going the responsive way.
Content Management, The Real Culprit
The hype and the debates around responsive design are missing the real problem. As mentioned above the challenge for most organizations in the long run won’t be maintaining multiple sets of frontend code for different templates. It will almost always be maintaining variations of duplicate content.
Arguments about whether to deliver less content or different content to the mobile user need to take into account the level of effort that will be required to manage and maintain that content. If you’re suggesting that it’s okay to cut information provided to mobile users, be aware that this approach may doom you to duplicate content and governance headaches. Paying attention to this is the very essence of content strategy.
So having a great CMS solution is now SUPER important when it comes to maintaining multiple frontends, isn’t it? That’s where we come in. We have perfecting the art of maintaining pushing new content from your CMS out to multi-frontends, all while maintaining proper search engine strategy.
If you’re looking to take the stress out of responsive vs forked design or would just like help with your upcoming strategy contact us. We would love to meet you and learn more about what you’re goals are to see if there would be a mutual fit for our companies.
Until then, happy mobile designing!!
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