Mobile web usage has been skyrocketing in recent years, having surpassed desktop usage back in 2016.

Think about it. When you need an answer to a quick question or a local business’s address, you’re not going to turn on your computer just to look for it. You will whip your phone out of your pocket and do a quick search.

Depending on what you’re looking for, this may result in an immediate, sometimes voiced response from your phone, some quick information on the Google results page, or at the very least, links to some websites that might have the answer.

You probably do several searches like this each day without even giving them a second thought. People have been using their phones more than their computers to access the internet for years now.

That said, businesses are still adapting to this change.

If you’re thinking about creating a website for your business, you might be aware that there are a couple of different types of mobile-friendliness available. You might not be sure which approach to take, and that’s fine.

We admit that all of it can be a bit confusing.

Let’s see the difference between mobile-friendly and responsive website design, and try to determine which one would be a better option for your business.

Mobile-Friendly Design

There are a few ways you could describe a mobile-friendly site, but in the broadest of terms, it is a standard website that users can access via their mobile phones. The website looks and functions the same as on computers.

This may sound like a good idea at first. We’re all used to how websites look on our computers, so what’s wrong with using the same approach for our mobile websites.

Also, because the site will always look the same, you don’t have to worry about changing its design for differently-sized screens. Your business’s visual identity will remain intact.

Nothing in the functionality of the site will change either, so users will be able to use the same drop-down menus and other options available on the desktop website. So far, so good. So what’s the problem?

If you’ve ever actually tried to navigate a desktop version of a website on your phone, you’ll know the answer to this question immediately. It is the scale. Looking at a desktop website on a 6-inch smartphone screen is challenging, to say the least.

You need to zoom in to be able to read different parts of the page. Want to click on a tiny navigational button? Better zoom in even further. It is not a pleasant experience, and frustration is imminent.

Responsive Design

Responsive websites go a step further than mobile-friendly ones in terms of adaptability. Not only are they accessible through your phone’s browser, but they respond to the size of the screen and adapt accordingly.

These websites work by using measurements relative to the size of the screen, rather than absolute numbers. For example, an image on a responsive website will always remain at 90% of the screen’s width, rather than always being 1000 pixels wide.

You don’t need a phone to see if a website is responsive. Simply change the size of your browser window. If the images, navigation bars and text on the website change positions and adapt as you shrink the window, that’s a responsive site.

Responsive websites are much easier to use on a mobile device because they allow the user to see all the relevant information and press all the buttons without needing to zoom in or pan across the page.

More and more websites nowadays are built with this approach in mind, but the transition is still not fast enough.

The biggest downside of a responsive website is that it takes more planning to get it right. Once you make a mobile-friendly website, you know that everything will always stay in its place, and the site will always look just as you intended.

With a responsive site, things are a bit different. If visitors use differently-sized devices or browser windows, the information on the website will be presented in different ways. There’s a risk that the site will fail to highlight what you think is most important if viewed from a particular device.

Which Approach is Better?

The answer to this question seems pretty clear-cut for most businesses, but it depends greatly on your goals.

You should always consider the intended purpose of your site before making one. Creating a responsive website might not be worth the additional effort required in your particular case.

That said, responsive websites indeed provide better user experience for mobile users. It is also true that more people are using their phones to access the internet than ever before, and that trend is showing no signs of stopping.

On top of that, since July 2019, Google has been giving responsive sites an advantage over desktop-focused sites in terms of rankings. Having a well-optimized mobile website gives your website a higher chance of being shown on the first page of the search results.

All this goes to show that the responsive design approach is the way to go if you’re building a new website for your company. Since most people access the internet on mobile devices, you probably want a website that is easy to navigate on such a device.