Why Building “Mobile First” Is Usually The Right Approach

Responsive Design

The pros of designing for desktop

When building or redesigning a website, professionals and novices alike can get caught in the trap of designing for desktop first. There are several good reasons to do it after all. Websites built for larger screens have notable positives:

  • They are more complex and offer better design variety with more visual space to work with.
  • Almost all web design / development occurs on larger screens, so designing for the device you’re using is natural.
  • You can display the “best” version of your business or idea when it’s on a larger screen – ideal for showing others your full scope.
  • For many, working from a more complex design layout first (Fullscreen) allows them to more easily capture the full scope of a website across all screen sizes (Tablets or Smartphones).
  • Many advanced websites, especially corporate or membership based websites, have mostly desktop traffic – so building desktop first for these is logical.

The pros of designing for mobile

As notable as those positives are when designing for larger screen sizes, at the end of the day, most of your audience is likely using their phones to consume content. Google recognises this too, and have notably switched their algortihms to reflect their stance on the issue. If your site isn’t currently responsive, almost any business in the same industry can leverage a distinct advantage over you, regardless of their content or quality.

Although mobile vs desktop traffic varies quite a lot, especially depending on your industry, much can be gleaned from global stats by market share.

Approximately 52% of the market worldwide is displayed or converts for mobile devices. Contrast that to only 44% for desktop and it’s clear why designing a website for mobile starts to make sense. On top of that, it’s estimated that about 65% of all digital media time is spent using a mobile device.

There are plenty more stats that undeniably show that smart phone use is dominant on average, and some paint a clear picture of why this is the case, but at the very least the case can be made that we should be designing with desktop as a secondary consideration. It’s just not typically natural, as many of us that are in the digital space have grown up during the tech revolution and are still used to the standard desktop viewport.

We need to shake the  and remind ourselves that the mobile audience is just as big, and we need to treat the idea of responsive design as common sense, rather than a feature or pleasant addition to any website.