The Best Mobile Online Community Options

“Responsive Web Design vs. Mobile sites vs. Native Apps”

According to data from Cisco, global mobile devices and connections in 2014 grew to 7.4 billion, up from 6.9 billion in 2013. The vast majority of mobile data traffic (97%) will originate from smart devices.

The increased use of mobile devices poses opportunities as well as challenges for businesses, making them eager to know if they are proceeding in the right direction or not. Especially whether they are putting their time and money in the right places?

However, this post merely takes into account the various facets that revolve round Responsive web Design, Mobile websites and Native Mobile Apps, leaving the reader to decide which the best option is.

 Responsive Web Design vs. Mobile sites vs. Native Apps

Responsive Web Design

Responsive design has the advantage of leveraging a solo website that automatically adjusts the size and layout of the given page to fit into the screen it is being opened in.

The responsive website code is so built as to adapt content, design and navigation to each user’s device/devices and mode of interactions. For instance, your online community’s home page has a navigation bar that has all options available and when someone accesses your community on his or her mobile phone, the responsive website will automatically put some of those navigation options into a drop down menu to meet the dimensions of the screen.


Mobile Website

A mobile website is an extra mobile-optimized site that sits alongside your browser-based online community. Mobile websites have exclusive codebase and are designed solely for user to view on mobile devices, such as smartphones, tablets, etc. The layout of mobile sites follows typical one-column design. And, of course, these are absolutely separate websites.


Native Mobile App

A native mobile app may be considered as an application that has been developed specifically for mobile users . It needs to be accessed via an online store, such as Apple App Store, Google Play, etcetera. Apps usually are bestowed with features that interact with mobile-specific features of another phone. Apps can be used offline, while integrating with the camera, click-to-call or GPS data.

However, each form of mobile platform has its own set of advantages and restrictions. It would, therefore, be prudent to choose an option that will help meet you/ your organization’s specific engagement goals.


Choosing the best option for your online community

Maintenance is perhaps the most worrying issue when it comes to tackling any inventiveness. This is especially relevant in terms of money, resources and stratagem in regard to the following.

  • Responsive Web Design – As online communities that use RWD normally use one single codebase, this is the easiest to manage option. Even if you put all your resources in a single responsive community website, it will still look fine on all types of devices.
  • Mobile Website – Managing two URLs with distinctive code structures will need more resources.
  • Native Mobile Apps require most maintenance efforts. If you launch your community in multiple mobile Operating Systems (OS), you need a method for developing and maintaining your app on each platform.


Marketing and Adoption Paths

Each option requires a unique plan to get your community members to engage on their mobile devices. Think of your resources that your organization will expend in explaining your target audience on how to take advantage of your investment.

  • Responsive Web Design

The biggest advantage of having one website to manage is the fact that your community members would never need to choose the platform to participate. By using your online community on their mobile devices, they are made to adopt your mobile platform. To cut a long story short, you will be dedicating all your marketing dollars to your one solo website.

  • Mobile Website

This needs a moderate amount extra marketing effort. As the concept appears to be rather novel for many there may also be a minor adoption curve when people seek additional instructions for accessing your community’s mobile site.

  • Native Mobile App

This option requires an individual marketing plan as the adoption process is unique. Though it is a common process for people with mobile devices, community members are still expected to download the application on the mobile device from their respective app store.


Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Getting found on search engines is increasingly a priority for organizations when planning their online customer or member communities. To be very precise, User generated content and discussions are diamonds to marketing teams.

  • Responsive Web Design

This option is considered grand for creating an SEO-optimized online community. What’s more, you need to manage your SEO ranking for one site only. In addition, Google has already made responsive web design a priority for search rankings since April 21, 2015.

  • Mobile Website

These sites are equally great for SEO rankings. However, you will be spending additional resources to optimize both your online community and the mobile version.

  • Native Mobile App

SEO opportunities are practically nil here.



To be honest about it, there is no such thing as best mobile online community options because each of these options has their own advantages and restraints. What, however, is considered relevant involves careful study of the goals of your organization vis-à-vis option that can meet those goals effectively and within your budget? For this you need to assess your resources. And finally, if you have a team of coders and apps developers, you would be able to mitigate the cost and labor that goes into creating a native app.