In the past decade, mobile phone use has increased drastically. Funnily, in 2011, more people owned phones in the world more than toothbrushes. In 2018, there were approximately 3.7 billion mobile phone users across the globe. The number is projected to increase to 4.6 billion by the end of 2019. As opposed to the past, when a phone was just a phone -a communication device- today, things are different. A phone has become a fundamental part of life used for communication, entertainment, information, and guidance.

The World Advertising Research Center (WARC) reports that around 2 billion people use their smartphones to access the internet. This number equates to 51% of all mobile users worldwide. People use their smartphones to access email, social media, banking, books, music, websites, bills, games, among other things. By 2025, it is projected that 72.6% of all internet users will utilize smartphones solely to access the internet. These statistics reveal the importance of developing web pages that function optimally on mobile devices.
A website design can either result in customer satisfaction or disappointment. If a website is designed well to function according to the visitor’s needs, the user will have a pleasant experience. Whichever device -smartphone, tablet, or desktop- a customer uses to surf the internet, your website you be optimized for it. There are two primary methods for sites to function well on mobile devices, namely mobile-first design and responsive web design.

Mobile-First Design

As the name suggests, Mobile-first Design means that you design a webpage that is accessible on mobile-first before it is accessible on desktop. As the number of mobile users increases, designers and developers are turning their attention away from desktop to mobile. With this type of design, developers must pare down information so that it fits on a mobile screen -that has less real estate than a desktop one. They must include essential functions only to mobile design.

Most developers choose to begin with mobile-first design because it makes work more effortless in the long-run. If you start developing for a desktop first, you may have a hard time developing a mobile design. This is because you are likely to create functionalities that do not process and respond well on mobile. Also, something may look fantastic on a desktop but horrendous on a mobile device. Such a situation means that you disregard your desktop design and start to develop a mobile design.

Many people ask how they will know whether they should invest in a mobile-first website design. The answer is simple; it all depends on your website visitors. If most of your customers prefer searching the web on mobile devices, then you should consider a mobile-first strategy. If not, this strategy is not for you.

Responsive Website Design

In this design, you format your website so that it can be viewed from any device, whether it’s a smartphone, tablet, or PC. The website design adjusts automatically based on the size of a user’s screen. Therefore, a user can browse a website regardless of the device he uses.
The responsive design combines moveable grids, layouts, and images that are flexible to allow viewing on both mobile devices and desktops. With a responsive design, you need one website. You don’t have to create two versions of a website -for mobile devices and desktop computers. The design, content, and user interface of your website is ‘responsive’ so that users can use any device to access it.

Differences between Mobile-First Design and Responsive Design

1. Purpose
Responsive design is common for B2B firms because the content of their website should be informative and authoritative. If you are a B2B company, most of your users use a laptop or desktop to access your page. As such, responsive design becomes the best approach.

Mobile-first design is ideal for B2C businesses because their audience mostly uses smartphones to access the net. It has positive outcomes for increasing conversions for B2C enterprises.

2. Design Process
Mobile-first design is like developing a mobile app. You start with a layout that fits a mobile device, then scale to a layout that can be viewed on tablet and desktop devices. In this technique, the goal is to offer excellent user experience characterized by fast download speeds, rich media content, and easy touchscreen navigation. The mobile-first design creates a compact design that can be leveraged to yield a desktop version.
The responsive design begins with designing for desktop then proceeds to create for tablet and mobile. It starts with the maximum required resolution and then narrows down to the smallest screen. The content and layout of responsive design contracts to fit different devices. A single site with one URL and content source caters to the needs of a range of screen sizes.

3. User Experience
Mobile-first design acknowledges that a majority of internet access is through smartphones and hence the need for excellent user experience on smartphones. With this design, you can be assured of a great experience on your mobile device. Nevertheless, this design is not optimized for desktops.
On the other hand, responsive web design focuses on providing an intuitive and gratifying experience for all devices and every screen size. Desktop and smartphone users all benefit from responsive design. You can browse the net on 20” desktops, 15” laptops, 10” netbooks, 7” tablets and 3” smartphones.

4. SEO optimization
Responsive design is great for SEO because it is adaptable to both desktops and mobile devices. Nowadays, Google ranks websites that are compatible with both desktop and mobile devices well. Additionally, a single version of a site improves page ranking.
Mobile-first design is disadvantageous for SEO because a site will only be optimized for mobile devices. In many cases, you have two versions of a website – the mobile on and the desktop one. This means you have two URLs and have to engage in SEO for both, which would be a lot of work.

Whichever design you choose for your website, it is essential to note that visitors may not distinguish if it’s mobile-first or responsive. The goal of the visitors is to easily and quickly get the information they need. The best strategy is the consumer-first strategy that ensures that your customers get what they are looking for. That’s what matters!

If you need a website that is custom-designed to meet the needs of your market, contact us. We will be glad to help.

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