Which is more expensive: a responsive design web site or creating a separate mobile version? This is a constant debate among many organizations. We can answer it with some simple design accounting.


For the most part, you don’t hear anyone saying that responsive web design is the wrong way to go. It’s motherhood-and-apple-pie to have a single design that works everywhere. Everyone seems to agree this, in the long run when all the planets align, is the best alternative.


The argument I keep hearing against responsive web design has to do with cost. Creating a site that dynamically adjusts to size, resolution, and bandwidth is an expensive proposition. It often demands a rethinking and retooling of the entire process.


These costs seem overwhelming at first and many folks are arguing that, in the short term, a two-design solution is the wise, more cost effective. Their argument is that you don’t have to disrupt the already-working “desktop version.” Instead, you create a bespoke “mobile site” with the most likely content and functionality.


The bespoke approach, on the surface, seems less expensive. You don’t need to retool everything. Instead, it’s a small, self-contained project with clear objectives and minimal impact. It’s appeal to the cost sensitive business executive makes perfect sense. That is, if you don’t look too hard at the accounting.