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The Difference in Mobile-Responsive and Mobile- Adaptive Sites

Google startled the industry last year by switching its mobile search algorithm to favor mobile-friendly sites.  Fortunately, at that time, Google gave everyone a fair warning 2 months in advance, including tips to increase their mobile-friendliness.  While it’s fairly clear what formulates a mobile-friendly site, there is still some confusion around what makes a site mobile-friendly as opposed to mobile-responsive or mobile-adaptive.

Mobile-Friendly vs. Mobile-Responsive

A mobile-friendly site isn’t exactly for a mobile device, specifically.  They are, however, versions of a site that work across multiple device platforms.  They’re mobile-optimized as opposed to a responsive site that is mobile-first…designed for mobile intentionally.

Responsive sites have very similar characteristics of mobile-friendly sites, but differ in key ways.  Responsive sites rely on mobile operating systems and have dynamic content that changes depending on the device that it’s being viewed on.  To test a sites mobile-responsiveness, change the size of your browser to see if it alters itself.


Responsive vs. Adaptive

In theory, mobile-responsive and mobile-adaptive are similar, but in practice, different.  They both change dimensions based on the browser and device they’re viewed on.  Responsive sites adjust to any layout, while adaptive sites only adapt at select points.  The method to this madness is that webmasters want to be certain that the browser is a particular width and the content will fit into that place, rather than changing sizes fluidly.  To put it in layman's terms, adaptive websites have several different layouts that will be deployed based on the size of the browser.

Adaptive sites, generally, are easier to deploy and faster to load since the the images are scaled down as opposed to resized.  However, if you have a complex site or you are working with ecommerce, we suggest a responsive site.


Is your site mobile-friendly?  Do you need tips on getting a mobile-friendly site to ensure you're responding to Google's algorithm?  If you’re looking to upgrade your old site and are unsure if you need a mobile-responsive or mobile-adaptive site, contact us today to speak with one of our web experts!  

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