What is it called when a website is mobile friendly?

The proper web design term is “responsive”. Your site “responds” to the size of the viewer’s screen, to display in a way that is attractive and easy to read.

It means that your site will look good on a cell phone (iPhone, Android, etc) as well as a desktop or laptop computer.

Most important, it responds to the needs of the website user.

So let’s make sense of the mobile friendly world, and show you how to get a mobile friendly site (if you don’t have one yet).

First, it’s essential to know that more people search online with their phones instead of desktop computers.

Google has been planning for this.

In 2015, they rolled out their first mobile friendly update. And as of March 2018, they started “mobile-first” indexing.

So whatever you want to call it (mobile-friendly, mobile-first, or mobile responsive), it’s clearly a big deal.

Here are the essential things a Canadian small business needs to know about it:

What Is “Mobile Friendly” Web Design?

On a very basic level, a web design is friendly for mobile when it loads fast on phones, and is easy to read and use.

Common sense, right?

If you ever talk to a designer though, there are some technical differences between terms. So it may be helpful to know them.

“Mobile-friendly” (with the dash) actually means that a website has been designed to look the same no matter what device or screen you use. These types of sites are very simple, and the proper use of this term is a bit outdated now.

“Mobile responsive” means that the elements (text, photos, columns, etc) will adjust with the screen size. The visuals “respond” to fit the display.

Major adjustments happen between screen sizes, called “breakpoints”, defined by the designer.

These breakpoints are set to match the average width of a desktop monitor, a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone screen.

Since there are many screen sizes across different smartphone models alone, you could (in theory) end up with hundreds of breakpoints.

But that would be overkill.

So for a standard modern website, a small business owner should just focus on 2 breakpoints:

The point between a desktop and a tablet, and the point between a tablet and a smartphone.

Now, from these definitions what you might have noticed is that when people ask for a “mobile-friendly” website, what they really want is a “responsive” website (which is the current standard).

But outside the design world, everyone understands the general concept of a website that is easy to use on a mobile device, and they find the word “responsive” to be clunky and a bit confusing.

So for the rest of this article, let’s just use the phrase “mobile friendly”. We’ll all agree that, in terms of results, it basically means the same thing.

There are a few specific conditions that must be met, in order to say that a site is easy to use on a mobile device.

  • the mobile version of the site does not use software that won’t display on a phone (like flash animation)
  • the text is readable without the user zooming in
  • the elements fit on the screen without the user having to scroll horizontally
  • links are spaced apart so it is easy to click the correct one

Finally, there is this business of Google doing “mobile-first” indexing. So what does that term mean?

Mainly it means that now, when Google wants to check up on your site to determine your latest search rankings, they are going to look at what is on the mobile version first.

Click here to read Google’s official statement on rolling out Mobile-First Indexing

Rolling out mobile-first indexing
Monday, March 26, 2018

Today we’re announcing that after a year and a half of careful experimentation and testing, we’ve started migrating sites that follow the best practices for mobile-first indexing.

To recap, our crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page’s content, which may cause issues for mobile searchers when that version is vastly different from the mobile version. Mobile-first indexing means that we’ll use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking, to better help our – primarily mobile – users find what they’re looking for.

We continue to have one single index that we use for serving search results. We do not have a “mobile-first index” that’s separate from our main index. Historically, the desktop version was indexed, but increasingly, we will be using the mobile versions of content.


Now that you know a little bit about what these terms mean, you can think more clearly about how they would affect your website, and, in turn, your business.

Why You Need A Mobile Friendly Website

As more web users browse with their phones, Google will prioritize the mobile experience.

Just like a dirty shop or a surly staff, a weak website drives people away and hurts the reputation of your business.

Having a mobile friendly site is a simple way to continue building trust with your potential (and current) customers.

You must give them the satisfying experience they have come to expect at every turn on the internet.

Here are four specific ways that being mobile friendly will benefit your business website:

1. Your site will show up higher on Google search results

2. You control the first message your customer sees

3. Your customers subconsciously associate a quick and easy website experience with the company being efficient

4. You compare favorably with your competitors (or at the very least match them)

Let’s go into detail on each one.

We’ll walk through the steps of someone finding and then using your site, and the drastically different feelings they’ll have depending on how mobile friendly the site is.

Starting with Google search results…

If you’re not mobile friendly, your site may get a drop in rankings.

We all know that if you don’t show up at the top of Google, less people are going to see your business and even less will click and visit.

On the other hand, being the top result in an organic search is like getting a seal of approval from Google. People trust and respect (and click) the top three results on the first page.

Then, once they get to your site (on their phones), what do they see?

If it’s not mobile friendly, your main image may look strange. Your headline may be cut off, or not readable at all.

If it is mobile friendly, the most important message is delivered with no scrolling involved. A lot of times with landing pages, the mobile website will show a headline or a form right away.

Of course web users are savvy enough to scroll through a website, but it’s a totally different experience to scan down through one column than it is to be able to see all the options laid out on a desktop site.

Compared to a desktop layout, the mobile website experience requires more guidance.

And when you guide your customers well and immediately address their main issue then they are more likely to trust you.

That brings us to the general feeling they get as they are deciding to do business with you.

Like it or not, they will feel annoyed at having to zoom around or struggle to find things on your site.

On the other hand, when the mobile experience is effortless, it reflects positively on you.

If using your website was easy, then getting service from your company must also be easy.

There may even be a dopamine drip that happens when they scroll around on the site and finally pick a button to click on. It sort of mimics a video game, and it can (strangely) give web visitors a quick hit of pleasure.

To bring it all to a close, a lot of web users aren’t going to make a buying decision right away.

What they will do, instead, is pop back to Google and check out what your competitors are offering.

So when your site is mobile friendly, you can imagine how much better it will look if your competitor’s is not. Or at the very least, you maintain the status quo.

These four points should show you why mobile friendly is so important over dozens of little interactions every day.

Next you’ll want to confirm that your site is, in fact, keeping up with the times.

How To Check If Your Site Is Mobile Friendly

Here is a quick hack to check if your site is responsive.

When viewing on desktop, just grab the side of your browser window and shrink it horizontally.

If the text and images realign, then your site is mobile friendly.

This is a great way to see how your site will appear on different mobile phones without having to actually look at it on a phone.

But there is also an official way to see if your site is considered mobile friendly by Google.

Visit this link:


Then enter your web domain and click “Run Test”.

After a few moments, if your site passes the test, you will see a message that says “Page is mobile friendly”. It will also show a preview of what your site looks like on a mobile phone.

How To Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

But what do you do if your site doesn’t pass the test?

Well, that depends on how your website was built, and what platform it is on.

If you have an older WordPress or Joomla site, you may want to just ask your website provider to update the theme, or switch to a new, responsive theme.

Keep in mind that your site might not look exactly the same after the update.

That is, after all, the point. If it wasn’t working well on mobile before, then some elements might need to be rearranged.

Other times, you might be on a website that is just too old and out of date, so that a theme change won’t fix anything.

What you need in that case is to rebuild your website on a more modern platform.

If it comes down to that, you may want to see what Websites.ca can do for you.

We offer a special promotion to Switch Your Website For Free.

A lot of companies who have old and outdated websites will switch over to our service, and as part of the switch, we make sure their new website works properly on mobile devices.

To learn more about the Switch offer, fill in this form:

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