In the last year, smartphone subscriptions increased by 55%. Just over 50% of mobile users now utilize smartphones, which means big money for websites and ads that are mobile-optimized. With the growing use of mobile devices for searching, purchasing and more, many companies have struggled to get mobile-friendly versions of their websites up and running. But there is an option for which an entirely separate and new site does not have to be constructed: responsive design.

Responsive design essentially creates the website’s functions and images as separate entities which grow and change as the screen size changes. If a user on a desktop makes the window smaller, the functionality of the website does not change. Similarly, the user who views the desktop version on the smartphone or tablet version can still perform the same actions. Gone are the days when the mobile version of a site is just a limited version with minimal actions you can take.

SEOMoz‘s visual account of how it works is helpful. Here is the standard view with 9 elements on the site:

Here’s what happens when you pull the screen wider:

And here’s what the elements do when you narrow the screen (or view the site on, say, an iPhone):

So what are other considerations before moving to responsive design?

First, SEO. Mobile sites used to have to compromise the amount of information that was on the page due to lack of space. With responsive design, the elements are all there on the page. When users want to find information on their smartphones, your site will have good usability, which is important to search engines. Also, people probably will not type a 7-word search query, so keeping your pages targeted to shorter keywords and keyword phrases is smart.

Second, user experience. While user experience may be enhanced for all the aforementioned reasons, it’s necessary to point out that with responsive design, your mobile site is confined to what is on your desktop site. For most businesses, this will be fine. However, for some, the mobile experience may need to be separate. Consider the reasons a user would search for your business on their mobile devices and why they would search for you on their desktops. If the reasons are quite different, having the same site content and functionality might not be the best answer for you.