Responsive Design vs. Mobile-Friendly vs Mobile-Optimized: Discover the Variation

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When building a business website, the top request is to make it mobile-friendly. Why? Because a large number of website traffic comes from mobile. Understanding the differences between mobile-friendly vs. mobile-optimized vs. responsive design is crucial. These are some flurries of terms that surround mobile. 

responsive design

But the main question is, what do they mean? What’s the difference between them? And which should you pick for yourself? However, these terms are so similar yet so different at the same time. At times they are misunderstood by web designers and developers even though they use these terms quite frequently, probably because they are used interchangeably and somewhat loosely. 

Oftentimes, people, and even experienced web designers, use these terms to refer to a website that works and also looks good on tablets or smartphones, with the increasing number of users spending time on different types of screen sizes. Almost every website tries to make a strategic effort to adapt to various screen sizes. 

Well, nothing to worry about because we are here to make it easy for you. Below we have created a breakdown of what each term means, how they are similar and what is best for your website. This information will help you make a well-informed and strategic decision for your brand’s site.

A Quick Look At The Key Differences

A Quick Look At The Key Differences

If you are new to the world of responsive web design, then for sure, you must have countless questions. Regarding how websites are designed and created to look visually appealing. On both desktops and various mobile devices. But most importantly, there is a range of what your website would look like from desktop to mobile. 

The topic of mobile-friendly vs. mobile-optimized vs. responsive design covers the differences between the approaches to responsive design. The aim behind this approach is to make websites viewable and usable on various sizes of devices. Here, we are mentioning a quick reference guide for your convenience.

  • Responsive design responds to the specific device; it is being viewed on. It automatically changes its formats to work smoothly while also looking great on any size device. 
  • A mobile-friendly design adapts a website designed for a bigger version to a much smaller version. It can be considered as the bare minimum of mobile design that any brand can get away with.
  • Mobile-optimized designs are more complex and advanced techniques than mobile-friendly designs. In easy words, it is a website that is particularly designed for the use of smartphones.

No matter what you choose for your responsive design, it’s crucial to understand how the site will be displayed in various formats. By keeping the important details in mind, you can make your website look good. Luckily, the industry expert, Artisticore, is giving you a deeper look into mobile-friendly vs. mobile-optimized vs. responsive design. Along with how to do it well with useful tips and tricks.

Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web Design

With website designs constantly evolving, a great form of development has come into action. Responsive design can be described as adapting and accommodating various screen sizes. It picks up where optimization leaves off. A major reason is that the website is designed to reformat and restructure itself for mobile phones, not only for the device but also for different screen sizes. The website’s layout easily scales from the smaller screens on smartphones to the medium tablet screen size to the larger desktop screens. 


To describe and differentiate in the easiest way possible, let’s assume what both optimized and responsive design tells the site to do. For instance, an optimized site tells the site that it is being viewed on a mobile device, so it displays accordingly. While a responsive design tells the site that it is being viewed on a Pixel 2 XL with a screen size of 411px by 823px. So, format yourself to fit those dimensions and provide a great display. 

They have the ability to adapt to a wide variety of different devices and contexts. This is what a responsive web design aims to achieve. Because of all its advantages, this particular web design approach is sometimes the most expensive and complicated one. Not only it gives flexibility and maximum user experience on all devices. But also guarantees that your website will look great for optimum usability. 

Such websites include dynamic content that changes, compressed images, and the right amount of spacing based on the device. They are depended on mobile OS for functionality. However, if you want to verify whether a website is responsive, you can do it by shrinking or expanding your browser window. Lastly, it might be costly to develop. But it can be a wise web development investment if you deal with active mobile device consumers. 

Principles Of Responsive Web Design:

Some of the key principles of responsive web design are:

  • It contains multiple breakpoints for responsive web design. It means creating designs for every single point wherever your website’s layout will change. 
  • They are designed for fluidity and movement while ensuring each element can move without affecting the quality of the design. 
  • There is no desktop or mobile-first approach in this approach of web design. Responsive web design adapts to all screen sizes.

Mobile-Friendly Web Design


Mobile-friendly websites are desktop sites that are easily accessible, regardless of what device it’s being viewed on. As such, websites don’t change or evolve according to the device’s size. However, it does make small tweaks to a desktop-oriented site just so that it can be used on smartphones. Apart from this fact, they still pass the mobile-friendliness test by Google. They don’t provide the users with the best possible viewing experience. As compared to the responsive and mobile-optimized design. 

Many developers think mobile-friendly web design is the “best practice” for all web development projects. This responsive design approach is said to be perfectly functional, although it will appear smaller on a mobile device. And also may not work smoothly on a touchscreen tablet. But the main idea is that it will look the same in mobile and desktop browsers. As mentioned above, it is the bare minimum mobile design strategy one should have for their mobile visitors. 

Some essential features of a mobile-friendly website are slideshows that work without any Flash support and small-size images to allow fast loading. Additionally, physical addresses, text-based phone numbers, or email addresses can trigger direction, call or email messages from mobile devices. A quick tip is that if you aren’t sure your website is mobile-friendly, you can always check out Google’s webmaster tool

Principles Of Mobile-Friendly Web Design

Before taking this approach, keep in mind a few key principles of this web design. 

  • All elements of each page need to be carefully arranged and designed so that they don’t overlap when the page shrinks down to the size of a mobile device. 
  • Every image you use should be optimized. The smaller the image, the more quickly it loads on a smartphone. 
  • The fonts you use on your site should be at least 14pt or 16pt. Anything smaller than this will be hard to read on a smaller device. 
  • Effects like the mouse-over one cannot and shouldn’t be a part of your design, especially for smartphones. 

To summarize, designing a mobile-friendly web page can sometimes be tricky. Especially if your website already exists in a desktop version. To minimize challenges, you can check out some tips and tricks for an effective mobile-friendly web design. 

Mobile-Optimized Web Design


By now, you probably know that a mobile-friendly website does the bare minimum to function properly on smaller devices. However, mobile-optimized web design takes things a step further. How, may you ask? Because mobile-optimized sites are useful for mobile. They are optimized for all kinds of mobile devices and tablets. This means that the website will reformat accordingly to adapt to any mobile screen. 

Such websites come into existence by prioritizing the needs of mobile users. It starts at the smallest screen size, for example, smartphones, and then expands to larger screens like desktops, etc. It is the opposite approach to mobile-friendly web design. So instead of taking the large version and condensing it into a smaller size, it goes the other way around.

It enables the users to find the exact information they need quickly. No matter if it’s finding a particular product or just looking to resolve a query. Additionally, this responsive design approach simplifies the website by compressing images, limiting text fields, and shortening copy. Many professional designers avoid pop-ups, animations, and mouse-over effects as these affect the site’s functionality.

On the contrary, it may seem easier to design because of being more minimal than the desktop versions. But the opposite is the case. Compressing your products or services into small, easy-to-use designs can be challenging. For this responsive design, keep your web pages straight to the point with minimal text, as it will not affect the functionality and design of your website.

Principles Of Mobile-Optimized Web Design

Some of the key principles of mobile-optimized web design are:

  • Your website should have simplified navigation, which is “thumb-friendly,” especially for necessary contact information. 
  • Always use reduced graphics that don’t interfere with the quest for critical information, such as product listings or commoditized content.
  • Until and unless it’s necessary, try to avoid making users type. 
  • Provide the option to view your site in a desktop version. 
  • Set up your content’s formatting properly and ensure enough spacing for maximum readability and UX. 
  • Avoid clutter on your site’s design, and make your website’s call to action (CTA) as simple as possible. 
  • Design your website using single-column layouts.

Keep in mind that all mobile-optimized websites are mobile-friendly. But a majority of mobile-friendly websites are not mobile-optimized. Additionally, it is not a shrunken-down version of the desktop version. So, it needs to be designed specifically. Read more about responsive web design here.

Which Is Better: Mobile-Friendly vs. Mobile-Optimized vs. Responsive Design?

Which Is Better: Mobile-Friendly vs. Mobile-Optimized vs. Responsive Design?

At this point, you are probably wondering where this all is leading. And looking for a clear answer to a very simple question. Which responsive web design approach is the best option for you? The not-so-helpful answer to this question is, “it depends.” The answers depend on the purpose of your site, the audience group, your needs, your business, and your budget. 

You can only provide the right answer to all your questions. Before making a final decision, consider what percentage of your visitors are on mobile devices. This will help you to choose the right approach for your site. You know enough about mobile-friendly, mobile-optimized, and responsive web design. You can easily consider which will be the best approach for your needs.