Mobile Responsive vs. Mobile-Friendly: What’s the Difference?

It’s a common practice to develop websites that are easily viewed and navigated across all devices, and to most of the world, the terms mobile-friendly and responsive mean the same thing. But they are two very different things.

“Mobile-friendly” simply means that your website will work on mobile, but the information and layout don’t change. Mobile-friendly websites often display larger navigation buttons and smaller images to load more quickly on mobile devices, further diluting your user’s experience.

Responsive website design (RWD) goes a step further by providing different layouts and functionality based on the screen size being used. The best financial advisor websites are responsive because images are better optimized, layouts are customized for smaller screens, and the website content is designed for flexibility to change across a variety of devices.

It’s projected that mobile will account for 72% of digital ad spend during 2019, and that increase is driven by users’ demand for a desktop experience on their mobile devices. This demand, combined with the fact that 88% of consumers who search for a local business via mobile call or go to that business within 24 hours, means lots of local traffic for savvy financial advisors.

Mobile-Friendly Website

For our purposes, we’re going to define “mobile-friendly” as any website that isn’t using RWD but still focuses on the mobile experience. While mobile-friendly websites still have a place in web design, they are quickly becoming outdated and should be considered the bare minimum for a mobile website. There should be very few instances where a website designer would not opt for RWD, and your financial advisor website IS NOT one of those few!

A mobile-friendly site is essentially a copy of your desktop website that will look and function on a smartphone just like it does on a desktop. Nothing changes other than the scale of the site, and usability isn’t factored into the design. Without mobile responsive design, your website on mobile is simply a miniature version of the desktop version, and today’s mobile users will not tolerate this perceived lack of concern with the user experience.

Mobile Responsive Website

A responsive website does exactly what the name implies — it is designed to respond to the screen size of the device from which it’s accessed. The user experience is far better than with mobile-friendly design because the look and function of your website will be transformed specifically for the mobile experience.

It’s important for financial advisors to have a clear understanding of the advantages of a mobile responsive design because, according to Unlockd, 85% of mobile advertisers think they’re providing a positive experience, but only 47% of users agree. This statistic means that there is a significant gap between how advertisers and users view their online experiences, so anything you can do to improve your users’ experiences is going to give you an advantage over the competition.

Responsive websites have a greater likelihood of ranking high in search engine results pages (SERPs) in large part due to their ease-of-use on mobile devices. This mobile user focus, combined with high-quality content, should increase the time users spend on your website. This “dwell time” is a key ranking factor with Google and other search engines, so your financial advisor website will not only appeal to end users, it will appeal to search engines as well.

Google recommends RWD because it creates that all-important user experience AND improves your results with SEO efforts across all platforms. Check out our presentation video to learn more about mobile responsive websites vs. mobile-friendly websites.

So, Mobile Responsive Websites Are the Best Choice?

If you want to take advantage of the phenomenal increase in local search and mobile search in general, the answer will almost always be yes. When you consider that websites with responsive design will typically rank higher with search engines and provide a better user experience, the choice does seem obvious, doesn’t it? It’s easier, and less expensive, to take an existing website and adapt it to be mobile-friendly than to redesign it with a responsive design, but why would you?

Responsive design is going to cost more, but your ROI will be higher. We’re quite sure you can do the math on this one and see the advantages of mobile responsive design and what the alternative could mean for your brand. In addition, a website without responsive design can often result in a high bounce rate because users find your website difficult to navigate on their smartphone. High bounce rates are one of the dominating factors in how search engines rank your website, so anything that puts your users off is going to have an impact on your page rank.

However, even with all the advantages of RWD, a mobile responsive website isn’t the complete solution for creating a great user experience on a mobile device. For instance, slow loading speeds are still a problem with responsive design and that means a problem for you and your users. Your prospects and clients typically expect a mobile website to load in two seconds, but according to Marketing Charts, mobile loading times are way behind that 2-second target even with responsive design.

In addition, there is still a need for better touch-screen optimization and better data visualization optimization so charts, graphs, etc. show up correctly on smaller screens.

So, does that mean that mobile responsive website design isn’t the best choice? No, it doesn’t, but there is a caveat. While RWD is an effective solution for financial advisor websites, many large, well-established companies are already making the switch to higher-speed configurations, such as AMP.

AMP + RWD = A New Era for Mobile Search

We’ve already talked about how a mobile responsive website has a distinct advantage over a mobile-friendly website and even with all its advantages, how RWD fails miserably on speed. AMP stands for “accelerated mobile pages,” and Google AMP pages do precisely that — they accelerate the loading time for mobile websites. The AMP Project was created by Google to give web designers, and the rest of us, a very clear example of what a fast, mobile responsive website experience should look like.

Visiting an AMP page through a Google search is when they load the fastest because Google hosts these pages on its servers and provide the content directly on its site. It’s similar to Facebook Instant Articles, which lets users read articles without leaving Facebook’s mobile app. And these pages load fast. Some tests have reported an increase in speed of 600%!

A large number of popular search engines, social platforms, content management systems, and eCommerce websites already support AMP. Bing, LinkedIn, Reddit, Twitter, Medium, WordPress, and others are quickly adopting the AMP protocols. While the AMP project isn’t perfected yet, Google already gives AMP pages preferential treatment in its search rankings, so take notice.

Additionally, AMP is poised to further optimize voice searches. Considering that 60% of people report having started using voice search within the last year. This trend in voice search combined with the popularity of voice-responsive appliances like Google Home and Alexa means that the combination of AMP and RWD could be paving the way for a new era for mobile search.


At FMG Suite, we’re dedicated to creating RWD specifically designed for financial advisors. We are passionate about the financial services industry and how to market it most effectively. If you would like to learn more about how we can design a mobile responsive website for your firm, check out our demo.