Mobile Friendly vs Mobile Responsive Websites

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Nowadays just having a website is no longer enough to remain on the cutting edge of competitiveness.  The vastness and potential of the World Wide Web and online markets for various industries is ever-expanding, and continually transforming in sophistication.  One area of significant advancement lies in the types of hardware that allow users access to the internet and its ocean of information. – Greg Baleson, CEO – Ignition Marketing

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Understanding the need for mobile responsive web build

Today, unlike our predecessors, we no longer depend on bulky desktop personal computers, which not too long ago were revered as the epitome of technological breakthrough.  Now Smartphones, tablets, iPhones, iPads and devices of increasing portability and convenience continue to revolutionise the industry.  Hence the need for greater and greater flexibility of typical website builds to align with viewing on smaller devices of varying sizes and operating systems from various manufactures including Android and Apple.

See Figure 1 below for a comparison on mobile versus desktop access to the internet, in this case just looking at the US market as a benchmark.

Internet usage graph
FIGURE 1

Meeting the need – Mobile Responsive Web Solutions

Based on the above-mentioned advancement in devices and internet accessibility, the market responded with two primary alternatives:  A Mobile version of a website and Responsive design and development.  Strictly speaking the responsive web build arose from the limitations of the mobile website, in an attempt to address such.  However, today there are various websites with separate mobile versions, while others have upgraded their existing websites with responsive features and applicable scripting.  Still many haven’t made any shift at all, although they are likely to do so in the foreseeable future.

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Mobile Friendly and Mobile Responsive Differences

Most people often use the terms “mobile friendly” and “mobile responsive” website design or website build interchangeably.  However, if one was to gain an intricate understanding on the subject, it’ll become apparent that there are in fact technical differences.  It is thus crucial to understand these differences as well as the advantages and features of the two options.  For this purpose the following table has been compiled:

MOBILE FRIENDLY WEBSITE

MOBILE RESPONSIVE WEBSITE

  • This is essentially a unique version of the base website, with a separate domain address or name.  It is a duplicate version even though the content itself will vary.
  • This refers to a singular website which can adapt in format and presentation to suite different viewing devices.  This can be an adaptation of an existing website or, if deemed necessary, a complete new build to replace the old unresponsive site.  The domain remains the same.
  • Requires duplication of content updates or development, due to the existence of two independent platforms.
  • All updates and back-end development are made seamlessly to the same, individual platform.
  • The mobile website as mentioned will have a unique address.  Companies generally distinguish their mobile versions with www.m.companyname.com.
  • Domain name or URL will be the same on the desktop, smart or any mobile device.
  • Based on the above the domain protection can be compromised with this option.  In other words the domain can be diluted and organic search engine optimisation or traffic adversely affected.  This adds to website management because you have to maintain two separate platforms of content.
  • Domain is protected as organic web traffic will not be redirected to another link or version.  Search engines like Google therefore favour responsive options as a single shared site preserves a canonical URL, avoids any complicated and time-consuming redirects, and simplifies sharing of web addresses.
  • This offers a personalised and tailored viewing and navigation experience for users. The server will execute the optimised page or version based on which device is detected.
  • In responsive design, the device facilitates optimum user experience by automatically adjusting to suite device’s screen size and orientation – whether portrait or landscape.  This takes place seamlessly, making it an intelligent, efficient and adaptive option.
  • Link equity and link building will be diluted as shares from mobile technology will be independent of those shared by desktop browsers or the primary website. This adversely affects SEO, or curtails its efforts.
  • Responsive design entails scripting new code and adjusting existing code on the back-end or server-level of your website.  This preserves the inherent link equity, meaning that all shares and backlinks will be credited to the primary website.  This means all web traffic, from all browsing devices will be attributed to the authority of the base site – which is fantastic for search purposes.
  • Mobile technology is continually changing.  As this advances so too will the need for ongoing maintenance of websites, especially where they are customised to specific devices.  So while the mobile option offers a uniquely tailored avenue for specific devices, the questions of maintenance and relevance arise.  Keeping the mobile site up-to-date, and in congruency to latest phones and browsers, will call for higher maintenance and more resources.
  • Responsive technology is as the name suggests:  Adaptive and futuristic or forward-thinking.  Essentially, it is largely pre-emptive and caters to next month’s or the following years devices quite comfortably.  Although maintenance as a formality is necessary to sustain and enhance the standards of any website, the demands are far less in this case.  This saves in time and development costs giving an overall better ROI.
  • On the basic premise of efficiency or output / result per unit resource, efficiency is diluted somewhat due to the separate websites and adjusted content.
  • Considered a more intelligent and efficient model for new-age-relevant websites – due to the “simplicity in sophistication” so to say.
  • Both websites will have to be optimised for search purposes.  This calls for separate SEO strategies or duplication of techniques to accommodate the desktop and mobile versions adequately.
  • Optimisation for web traffic or relevant SEO strategy will only apply to the single, primary website.
  • In regards to content, one of the signature characteristics of the mobile website, is the fact that it is built on less content.  Since there are 2 versions of the base website or online representation, the desktop version will be content-heavy or more intensive.  On the other hand the copy or copywritten content as well as images will be reduced wherever possible or necessary in the creation of the mobile website.
  • In this approach, large images will either automatically compact or disappear where unnecessary on the smaller screen.  However, what is advantageous is that essential content, articles and other features or elements will adapt by neatly ‘stacking’ and / or arranging themselves in such a way to accommodate the specifications of the browser and device.
  • Visually the mobile website is “bold” with big buttons, easy functionality for mobile users – such as click-to-call options that make sense in such cases – and content is kept to a minimal.
  • Still visually built for simplicity and mobile-friendliness on any device or orientation, the responsive look makes navigation easier, but doesn’t lose content.  As mentioned the same content will intuitively adapt for optimum viewing experience.

This article has highlighted the main characteristics, core features and differences between what has become known as the “mobile friendly” website, versus the “mobile responsive” website.  We trust that you’ve found this review useful, but be sure to look out for forthcoming articles on the topic.  Feel free to comment, we’d love to have feedback and hear your thoughts on the subject

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