Once you have decided you need a mobile version of your website, the next step is 'How should I go mobile?' There are several options, each with different price points, and different advantages and disadvantages.
Completely Separate Content;
You can run a separate website, that might be stored on a separate server, or just a separate folder in your current website: (http://m.domain.com or http://www.domain.com/mobile/) Then either a script on your website, or some clever server programming can direct visitors from mobiles to the separate content. This is great if you have a large website, and you don't have either the time, or perhaps the capital to review all of your old web pages, and check that they will work in the mobile layout. Usually, a separate website just for mobile allows you to select a sub-set of your main site's content to display on the mobile version.
The consequence of this means that you now have two sites to manage! Now, if you only update your site occasionally, this may not be a problem, but if you make regular changes, this may cause problems with forgetting to update one or the other version of your site. (See 'Good CMS' below for alternatives)
Liquid Layout or Responsive Design;
The latest trend in new designs is to create a similar look and feel designed for multiple screen sizes. This allows the designer to 'turn off' or change the layout and typography of each element, for different screen sizes. You will certainly have the most flexibility with your design this way, and you could have an endless range of sizes that you set up for your site. Usually we find three or four sizes are ideal;
- portrait mobile
- landscape mobile/portrait mini tablet,
- 1024 wide for landscape mini tablet and desktops (allows for larger tablets, and most desktops)
- If a fourth size is used, then we may consider a full width or wide screen version.
One important factor here is that the liquid layouts allow you to manage ONE website and it's content, and the design takes care of showing the correct layout.
The only consideration with this layout is ensuring your content managers understand any special coding that is required for images or graphics within the site, so that there is no case where the wrong size image, or poorly chosen font ruins the design for a smaller screen.
Advantages of a good CMS;
A good CMS (Content Management System) may allow you to manage content once, and still have separate websites. Adobe's 'Business Catalyst' is one such CMS which uses a concept called 'Content Holders'. This lets you enter content in one place, and it can show up in the mobile version of your site (when both sites are hosted with their CMS). You may also be able to run two websites, but still display blog content on two separate websites, depending on your CMS.