Wading the Waters of Mobile-First and Responsive Web Design

Like it or not, we now live in a world where a successful (i.e. highly functional and visually appealing) mobile website is essential in order to be an industry-leading company. As technologies have changed, a mobile design shift has emerged. Now, mobile design is at the forefront while desktop response comes after.
Before beginning your integration into the mobile sector, there are two methodologies to choose from: responsive design and mobile-first design. Learn more about these two approaches below…

Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design (RWD) is characterized by designing a website that has been optimized so that regardless of which screen (both desktop and mobile) a viewer is using, the website provides a high quality UX. In this way, responsive design works by identifying the type of device being used and then conforming the site to fit the screen size.

Responsive design websites are beneficial because:

  • One website is more manageable than multiple. With proper RWD practices, your company’s IT department doesn’t have to manage more than one site. Also, there’s only one URL to deal with, thus leading to a less of a chance of experiencing redirects. Redirects cause lag time, which many users (and search engines) find unacceptable. 
  • The user experience is consistent. A single site that responsively adapts to every type of device will present a consistent look and feel to users. They should see similar graphics and branding whether they are accessing the site through a mobile device or the desktop.

The disadvantages of responsive design are:

  • Having a single website can limit how your users access information.
  • Older devices may not have the browser speeds that newer devices have. This can lead to information being incorrect and having pages not load completely.

For more information about responsive design websites, visit our blog.

Mobile-First Design

Mobile-first design is fairly self-explanatory: you place primary focus on designing your mobile website, then consider desktop applications. After your mobile website has been created, you then use this model to scale up to tablet and desktop user experiences. More companies are turning to this design strategy to meet the user demand.

Mobile-first benefits include:

  • Better UX. Employing a mobile-first mindset requires developers to think hard about what features their users will absolutely need since mobile sites are smaller and can fit fewer components. This kind of thinking tends to result in more simplified navigation, concise content and more streamlined site overall.
  • Segmentation. Mobile-first allows companies to collect more data from users than desktop applications can. This includes geo-location information that can help companies better serve their customers.
  • Money-maker. More financial transactions are being made via mobile browsers. Using mobile-first gives your business a foot in the door to start generating revenues immediately.

Disadvantages of mobile-first are:

  • Difficult to design. Many developers turn to responsive design websites over mobile-first simply because the former is easier to design. Your business may find it difficult to locate a designer who is qualified and experienced enough to employ mobile-first strategies properly.
  • Upkeep. Using a mobile-first design strategy may require your IT department to juggle multiple URLs and website redirects. Moreover, this means if you’re running a promotion or want to change the direction of your company, all sites must be independently updated to reflect these changes.

Depending on the goals you have set forth for your business, both RWD and mobile first strategies can work. The important thing to keep in mind is that before deciding on one strategy over the other, your business’s specific needs should be closely analyzed.
Still not sure where to start? Innovative Architects can help! Contact us to speak with a knowledgeable RWD and mobile first consultant. Also, browse our blog and knowledge center to learn more about responsive web design, mobile first, SharePoint and much more.