Mobile Friendly vs Responsive Design (2021): The Never Ending Saga

Both the responsive design and mobile friendly design have become an inherent part of today’s web design and development world. Whether you are creating a site from scratch or making modifications to your existing design and functionality, make sure you generate a good amount of web traffic. Since the mobile internet promptly taking over the desktop usage, it becomes essential for web designers and developers to build a website that runs smoothly across devices.

According to the StarCounter Global stats, the mobile and tablet internet usage has surpassed the desktop usage for the first time in October 2016 by 3 percent. This is an impressive stats that clearly defines the never stopping evolution of mobile-friendly websites.

However, most of the beginners get confused between the responsive design and mobile friendly design. There two most common myths about responsive and mobile-friendly designs:

  • Only responsive sites work on different mobile devices
  • A mobile-friendly site is responsive

Of course, both the concepts are for the same purpose, but there are some key differences that you must need to know before starting off your first/next web project.

Here, we will share some of the common differences between the responsive and mobile-friendly designs that will help you know which web design approach is suitable for your website.


  • Responsive Design

The growing percentage of mobile internet users are encouraging web designers to create a website that runs smoothly on different devices and screen sizes. This is a situation where responsive design comes into play. It is a prevailing web design method where a website is optimized for multiple devices, such as desktop, laptop, smartphone, tablet to give rich user experience to the potential visitors.

A responsive website automatically scales and adapts the screen size of a device which is being used by a user when he/she visits your site. It simply reformats and re-optimizes the site so that mobile visitors can easily access the content on your site, without any distraction. Whether you are using the desktop or a smartphone, the responsive website has a great potential to give rich navigation and scrolling experience to all web and mobile visitors.

  • Mobile-Friendly Design
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While responsive design reformats and optimizes a site for multiple devices, mobile-friendly refers to a site that works exactly in the same way across devices – be it a desktop or laptop computer or a mobile device. Although the content, images and other text of a site can easily appear smaller on tablet and mobile devices, it won’t work perfectly.

There are many developers who see mobile friendly an incredible practice for almost all website developments. In short, Mobile-friendly websites can easily work on mobile devices, but they were ultimately designed for desktop users.

How do they work?

  • Responsive Design

Creating a responsive website means you are allowing mobile visitors to access, read and navigate through your web pages with a minimum of scrolling, resizing, and panning. It instantly responds to any screen size which is being viewed by a mobile visitor.

It works by targeting the width of an individual web user’s browser to know how much space is available and how it should present your site. Under this method, the text, images and other content of a site changes from 3-column layouts to a single column, and even hide unnecessary images to give rich user experiences on smaller devices.

  • Mobile Friendly Design

Mobile friendly design is a great approach for those who want to give consistent site experience on different devices. It follows a single design that works well on both desktop and mobile devices. Developers/designers don’t need to write any specific HTML/CSS coding to optimize the content or image sizes for different screen sizes.

The content remains static, and the navigation drop-downs are limited in the mobile-friendly design. This means the site looks the same on the mobile device but scaled down to about half the size as compared to the desktop version.

Rendering Experience

  • Responsive Design
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A responsive website gives flexible and rich experience to those who visit your site via their mobile phones. It automatically adjusts to the device of a visitor (large or small) and encourages them to switch between desktop to mobile versions on the fly.

  • Mobile Friendly Design

A mobile friendly site refers as a copy of your site, where the server analyzes and delivers an optimized page for smaller mobile devices. In fact, smaller image sizes are used in this method to render fast loading experience to the mobile visitors.

Domain Protection

  • Responsive Design

You don’t have to change your domain except the coding on the backend while creating a responsive design for your site. It means you don’t need to create different domains for different versions of your site (such as desktop version and mobile version).

In fact, Google prefers responsive site when it comes to domain protection because it maintains a single shared site, and also avoids complex redirects, which is good for a site SEO ranking.

  • Mobile-friendly Design

Here, you have to create a different domain for each of your site version. This can mitigate your domain and also decrease the organic search traffic of your site. Even, you need to put more efforts as you have to maintain two separate versions of content.

Link Equity

  • Responsive Design

As I mentioned above that you have you add new code on the back-end of your site in responsive design, it means the link equity of your company remains the same – it will be preserved. This makes it easy for both the search engines and web audience to search and access your website.

  • Mobile-friendly Design
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Since mobile friendly site uses a separate domain, the links shared from the browsers of smaller devices won’t be marked as search link equity towards your first site. This makes it difficult for search engine crawlers to read and index your site for better online visibility.


Both the responsive and mobile-friendly designs are a great medium of influencing a mobile audience. But if you want to enhance the overall user experience, then you should go for responsive web design. It is better to create a website that quickly and easily adapts the screen size of a device and display a well-optimized content, layouts, and images on smaller devices.

Author Bio:

Lucy Barret is working fulltime as a Web Developer and an expert of converting PSD to WordPress conversion projects. In her free time, she enjoys reading and writing techy articles. Follow her on Twitter.

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