When designing a mobile experience for your site, it can sometimes be confusing on how exactly to start. Three main options for configuring your site include responsive design, dynamic serving or mobile URLs.
A responsive design displays the same content on every platform, but is able to detect different devices and changes the layout depending on screen size. On a smaller device, fewer photos or text may be displayed, but there will be one URL for all smart phones, tablets, computers and more. This type of template works well because it creates consistency across every type of device and screen. It is also beneficial because there are no redirects and is great for SEO because search engines only have one page to rank and index.
One way a responsive design could hinder the mobile experience, however, is if your site has a high amount of videos or ads. This weighty content will not be shown to visitors through the responsive design, but can slow the load time of the site. If this is the case, or if your mobile site ends up looking entirely different than the desktop version, dynamic serving or mobile URLs may be better options.
Dynamic serving also has just one URL for both desktop and mobile users. However, unlike a responsive design, this version sends different content to users on different types of devices. The server is able to detect the device being used and display information that is the best fit for the screen. Using dynamic serving can fix the problem of a site taking longer to load with a responsive design. If your website has a large amount of video and other content that may slow down a mobile site, this option may be the way to go, but can be more complicated to implement.
The last option, mobile URLs, creates an entirely different experience for mobile users and desktop users, including separate URLs. This allows you to feature the best content for each device. However, Google views these URLs as separate web pages, so it is important to take measures to show the relation between your mobile and desktop sites.
One important step in creating the best mobile URLs for your site is to make sure that both desktop and mobile pages redirect correctly. Mobile users should be sent to the mobile URL and desktop users should be sent to the main site. This helps greatly improve SEO, but also improves visitor experience. For example, if a user shares a link on Twitter from their smart phone, and another user opens the page on their laptop, that second user should be correctly redirected to the desktop version of the site. If the page does not redirect, the laptop user will view the mobile version of the link and will experience a much simpler design for their much larger screen. For tablet users, Google recommends redirecting to the desktop version. It is also important to not block mobile pages from being crawled, because the blockage will prevent Google from connecting the desktop and mobile pages.
All of these options work well for both users and for Google. It is important to evaluate your website and choose the option that creates the best SEO and user experience.