Responsive or mobile friendly website? What’s the difference?

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Despite sounding quite similar, mobile responsive websites and mobile friendly websites are quite different website designs altogether. Websites with a responsive design automatically adjust and reformat based on the device. A mobile friendly site, however, is actually a copy of your website, where the server delivers optimized pages that will function on a phone or touchscreen device but may not work ideally.

Responsive:
A responsive website viewed on a mobile device will adjust the sizing of its text and images, as well as move from a three-column layout to a single column display. Any ‘unnecessary’ images on the website are hidden so they don’t interfere with the more important information on the smaller display. Users can test if a website is responsive when using a desktop computer by reducing a browser’s window size from full screen down to a very small size. If the text, images and menu change as the window gets smaller, the website is responsive.

Though you can achieve a more customised mobile experience with responsive websites, responsive website designs require expertise, more time, proper planning and generally cost more to develop. Consider going responsive if:

  • A large majority of your website traffic is from a mobile device.
  • Your website has complex content and features that are difficult to view on a mobile device.
  • You want your website to appear up-to-date for a longer period of time.

Mobile friendly:
A mobile friendly website is designed to behave in the same manner across a range of devices, meaning nothing changes when the website is viewed on a computer or mobile device but features like navigation drop-downs are limited. While mobile-friendly websites don’t have any special functions, you can still achieve a consistent website experience across all devices with this simplified website version. Consider a mobile friendly website if:

  • The majority of website traffic isn’t from a mobile device.
  • Your website is made up of mostly text and images.
  • The images are small, allowing for fast loading over mobile connections.
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