Whats the difference between mobile friendly and mobile responsive?

February 27, 2015

Having a mobile ready website is something that is already on the wish list for most businesses. I’m not going to go over the advantages of optimising for mobile devices as I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. What I am going to discuss is an important difference in some of the buzz words that are used to describe these websites.

A mobile friendly website is a term used to mean that the website will accurately display on a phone screen as well as a desktop computer. The oldest way of doing this is simply allowing the website to shrink down to fit on the mobile screen and look exactly the same. Anyone who has come across this will know that it isn’t particularly user friendly; buttons are too small to press without needing to zoom in and scroll around.

A slightly more modern approach to creating a mobile friendly website is to have a separate website that is optimised for mobile phones. This usually sits on a different web address, for example, you’ll see www.mywebsite.com for the normal website and m.mywebsite.com or mobile.mywebsite.com for the mobile version. Visitors will then get redirected to the correct website for the device they are using. This can add complications though. When sharing links to pages from the website via social media, the link that you share will depend on the device you are using at the time. So, if you like to share from your phone you will be giving people links to the mobile version of your website. What if they are visiting from a desktop? The website will detect this and redirect them. However, unless proper redirects have been set up for every page on the website they will just get dumped onto the homepage and not to the page you shared.

There is another important drawback to having a separate website for your mobile visitors… SEO. Having two versions of the website makes it more difficult to maintain good standing with Google (and other search engines). Links followed to your mobile website do not benefit the SEO for your primary website and they can end up diluting each other. Here’s what Google have to say about it:

Maintaining a single shared site preserves a canonical URL, avoiding any complicated redirects, and simplifies the sharing of web addresses.

Having a single shared website, that is optimised for mobile phones can be achieved with mobile responsive design. A mobile responsive website is a single website that automatically adjusts itself depending on the screen size of the device. The website can be optimised for many more device sizes… mobile phones, tablets in portrait mode, tablets in landscape mode, laptops as well as larger screens.

So how can I tell if a website is truly mobile responsive?

Use a desktop computer to visit the website. Shrink your browser window down and see if it adjusts. Once the window is around the size of a phone screen, does it look mobile friendly?

I develop all of my WordPress websites to be mobile responsive, so you only need to worry about having one website to take care of. Get in touch if you’d like to discuss more.