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Mobile Compatible Website vs Mobile Optimised Website

mobile compatible vs mobile optimised

To the uninitiated, they might sound the same, but if you’re in the business of search engine optimisation, user experience design or even just have a website that you wish would work better for you in terms of SEO or conversions, then it’s super important to understand the difference.

To add another phrase to the mix, “mobile-friendly” is a similar often-used term, so I’ve put together this guide to help you understand what they all mean.

What does mobile compatible mean?

A mobile compatible website, more commonly known as a mobile friendly website is one which looks like it fits well on a mobile device. It starts life as the desktop version and is ‘thinned down’ so that all the elements fit on a mobile device without having to pinch-zoom or scroll left and right. This is otherwise called a ‘responsive website’ as it responds to the device it is being viewed on.

A good mobile friendly website should also make concessions for users to make their browsing experience an easy one, such as larger clickable areas accommodating for the “fat finger problem” and integration with phone functions like the ability to call directly from a phone number.

In summary, a mobile compatible site essentially is more about how it looks and technically works on mobiles rather than how it performs on that device.

What does mobile optimised mean?

A mobile optimised website takes the concept of mobile friendly to the next level.

To illustrate that point, allow me to set the scene…

You’re at work in your lunch break wondering what restaurant to visit later that evening. You search on your work desktop computer for local restaurants and you start to browse a few of their websites. Your decision-making balances on what type of food they serve, whether the restaurant looks modern and the food and menu looks appealing. You have a bit of time to kill so you click around each of the sites for a while.

You Whatsapp the website link of your preferred restaurant over to your friend. She opens it in her mobile and as she trusts your decision-making abilities browses straight to the menu to confirm whether she likes what they offer.

Later that evening, with your choice restaurant in mind, you load up the website on your mobile to find the address and load it in Google Maps ready for navigating your way there.

You’ll notice from that little story that the user-intent on desktop vs mobile is very different. Users tend to have more time for browsing websites in more detail on desktop, whereas mobile users have less time, more focused objectives and less patience.

A mobile optimised website therefore needs to be more than just a responsive desktop experience, it needs to cater for these different needs by presenting the content and information that mobile users are likely to want and require whilst doing so in a way that accounts for their limited time and patience.

Why is it important?

Once you understand how and why mobile users are so different to desktop users, you can begin to understand why having a mobile optimised website is so important.

Of course, just how important having a mobile optimised website is, depends on many things including the type of business you’re in and number of mobile users you receive to the site, and the intent of those users. However since last year, Google has added another factor to the mix by automatically judging all websites on a mobile first basis, otherwise known as Google mobile first indexing.

This means Google now looks at all websites as they appear on mobile first, even if your users are mainly desktop. This means that if your website isn’t mobile optimised or at the very least mobile friendly, then your site won’t be performing as well in the Google rankings as it could be.

Mobile optimised website vs app

A question we’re often asked is whether it’s worth having a mobile optimised website, an app or perhaps even a separate mobile website.

Of course our answer depends on a lot of things however first up, a separate mobile website nowadays isn’t necessary. The code used to build websites has come on so well that in the majority of cases, one website can do the job of serving up optimised versions for different devices.

Whether you want to go down the app route however may depend on the size of the business, customers as well marketing plans.

A mobile app would need to be downloaded and so wouldn’t necessarily work in the search engines in the same way as a website. Ultimately if you know an app would be well received by your customers, we’d still recommend having a mobile optimised website to work alongside it for those who don’t want the app.

A great example of this is Amazon. They have an app which has a similar browsing experience to the mobile version of the site, however it’s more personalised as it’s permanently signed-in and therefore provides a quick and easy way to purchase from them.

Is my website mobile compatible?

Other than physically testing your website on your mobile, you can also do a quick test on your desktop (or laptop) browser.

Simply load up the website and then click on the bottom right corner of the browser to resize it and keep dragging the cursor to the left to reduce the width. You’ll start to see how the website adjusts ‘responsively’ to each size. If it doesn’t appear to adjust at all then you probably don’t have a mobile friendly website.

browse rresizing

Is my website mobile optimised?

To test this properly you will first need to make a couple of lists.

Starting with desktop, list the priorities a desktop user might have when visiting your website. What information are they looking for, what are they wanting to do when on your site.

Remember, desktop users have more time and you can engage them more easily.

Then do the same process for your mobile users remembering that they are time poor, distracted and usually have one specific objective in mind.

Once you’ve made these lists, go ahead and browse your website on your mobile. Is it easy to find the information you outlined? How easy? Imagine you’re on a train, in a busy place. Is it still easy to do? Is there anything that gets in the way of you finding that information? Could it be easier or less distracting?

By putting yourself in the position of your mobile users, you can start to see just how mobile optimised your site really is. However nothing can beat talking directly to your audience and finding out from them, just how mobile-optimised your website is.

How to make a mobile optimised website

If you’re starting out with just a mobile friendly website and wanting to make it fully mobile optimised, the first step is to follow the method above so you’re fully aware of the user-intent. Once this is clear, then it’s a matter of reprioritising the content of each page so that the information they’re looking for is easy to find on mobile.

This also involves removing all distractions, ie. design elements which may distract more than engage, as well as completely removing any information that mobile users just won’t find useful in their quest to their objectives.

It is harder to ‘engage’ mobile users. According to Search Engine Watch, desktop visits last 3 times longer on average than mobile visits, and more pages are viewed.

Why a mobile optimised website is better than a mobile compatible one

To summarise, if your mobile-using audience is important to you, then having a mobile optimised website should be high priority for your business.

It not only means that users come away feeling that you’ve catered well for their needs (extra brand points for you), but ultimately that you’ll receive more business as a result.

As a bonus point, Google will also rank you more favourably.



If you have any questions regarding this article or would like to discuss building a mobile optimised website for your business, feel free to get in touch: enquiries@orangegrovedesigns.co.uk

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