The Difference between Responsive and Mobile Friendly Websites

Do you know the difference between responsive and mobile friendly?

If you have read anything about web design or web development in the past year or two then you are bound to have heard one or both of these terms. But do you know exactly what they mean? Do you know the difference between them (or did you think they were the same thing)? Do you know if your own website is mobile friendly or responsive (or neither, or both!)? And do you know why it’s important? Well we are here to help!


What does responsive mean, anyway?

Let’s start with an explanation of the terms. Both a responsive and a mobile friendly site are designed to display correctly on a mobile device. In fact, many people will use mobile friendly as a general term for all sites which are designed in this way, including responsive sites. However, there is a difference and it is an important one.

A responsive site does what it says on the tin, it responds to the dimensions of the screen where it is being displayed and reacts accordingly. Items are resized, layout changes and various other things happen automatically as the screen size changes.
A mobile friendly site is slightly different. In this case, the browser detects that the user is viewing the site on a mobile device and loads a different version of your site to suit. This is usually denoted by a web address starting with m (eg

Why does it matter?

Well, firstly, managing one version of your site is easier than managing two! A responsive site displays the same website for all devices and adapts to suit, so you don’t need a second version for mobile devices. Admittedly, there are ways to automate the process of generating the mobile version but it is still a second version.

Secondly, tablets and various other devices have complicated the issue. If you have a version of your site for a computer screen, and one for a 4-5″ mobile phone screen, what happens if your user is viewing on a 7″ tablet, an ipad or a 10″ netbook? A responsive site will be set up to respond to all screen sizes, a site set up to mobile friendly will have to select one of the 2 versions and do the best it can to make that fit the screen. As a result, a responsive site will display far more nicely on a tablet than a mobile friendly site will, as a general rule.

How can I tell if my site is responsive?

This one is simple. Open your website in a browser and simply resize the browser window right down to the size you would expect to see on a tablet, phone or other mobile device. Watch how the site adjusts at the various screen sizes. If it appears to correct itself as the screen changes size, then chances are it is responsive.

Google also has a handy tool to check easily, click here. You can also use Google Webmaster tools to find out more. If there are issues with your site for mobile devices this test will show you.

We would suggest you also run it past Bing’s Mobile Friendliness Test Tool, as results can vary slightly between the two.

Why does my website need to be responsive?

Firstly, if you look at the stats for users who view websites on their mobile phones, the percentage of searches which are carried out on mobile phones and the percentage of social media use which is via mobile phones then you will know that you if you want people to find and view your website then it needs to be available to users who are viewing on a mobile device. If a visitor searches on a phone and your website shows in their search results, Google will show the user which sites are mobile friendly. A user who is on a mobile will not click on a site which is not going to display correctly on their phone. In addition, Google is now penalising sites which are not “mobile friendly” by not showing them at all on searches run from mobile devices.

For businesses who promote on social media, it is even more crucial to be viewable on mobile. 70-85% (depending on the source) of twitter use is on mobile. So if you are sharing links from your website on twitter, you need to make sure that it can be viewed by mobile users who click through. There are no second chances, they will simply close your website and go back to twitter or look elsewhere if your website does not display correctly.

Is it difficult to make my existing site responsive?

It can cost extra to implement a responsive website as opposed to a mobile friendly one. However, when you consider that a responsive site means that your website will display correctly on all devices, rather than just on computer screen and mobile phone screen, then it is worth it. Incidentally, all Coppertops sites are responsive. There is no extra cost, this is simply the standard we set for our websites.

If you use a CMS like WordPress, then it should be relatively simple to implement a responsive theme. Bear in mind that anything that you have updated in your exising theme may be lost when you switch, so check that none of your content is dependent on the theme first.

It may be worth checking out the Website Refresh we at Coppertops are currently offering. All of our designs are responsive so this pack includes a fully customised, unique design for your website which is fully responsive and fully tested before implementation. Contact us to find out more.

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