As the creator of the Android OS, which is now the largest mobile operating system on the web, Google will obviously play a very large role in the future of mobile. However, in another facet, Google will certainly determine the fate and direction of mobile, and that is through Google search.
Mobile Search Matters
Yes, there is little doubt that Google’s search results will play a huge part in determining how mobile will progress. The importance of mobile can’t be understated as we move to a web environment where users search and browse primarily through mobile devices. Up until about a year and half ago, there were two predominant options for mobile integration — there were apps and mobile websites.
While apps have taken off into their own corner of both the web and an essential core of the mobile experience, mobile websites have grown into what essentially boils down to two separate camps: dedicated mobile websites and responsive design websites.
Mobile Websites vs. Responsive Websites
The standard dedicated mobile website is built separately from the standard website. It is called up via a script that determines if the users is on a mobile or desktop browser. If it is mobile, the dedicated mobile site is then displayed.
Mobile websites such as this usually use large icons and simplicity of navigation as their benefit. More visual and easier to navigate, these sites also tend to be more simplistic than their standard site sibling. For SEO purposes, markup can include meta tags, descriptions and such, yet this is still separate from the main website.
Responsive websites are ones that are designed so they’ll display in response to the browser — capabilities and dimensions — that is used to view the site. So there is not a second version of the site that’s dedicated to the mobile experience.
With this, too, comes benefits and limitations. One of the major benefits is that the full site is still displayed. The SEO work that is done to the site is carried through for the mobile version, since it’s the same. The URL’s are the same, as there’s no need to display a secondary version on a subdomain. Essentially nothing from the standard view is lost, content wise.
The downside is that there are not mobile specific pieces of content or functionality that is custom for mobile that comes out of the box with a responsive design website.
Why Responsive Will Win
Though I don’t, by any means, posses a crystal ball, it appears that responsive design websites now have the advantage and Google, from a search perspective — being able to index and serve the flow of a single site and experience — is getting behind responsive design. If they continue to push forward in this direction, you’ll see many sites converting to this for purposes of winning the search game.