Mobile-First vs. Responsive Web Design: Which Should Your Business Choose?

Mobile-First vs. Responsive Web Design: Which Should Your Business Choose?

You want your business website to create an amazing experience that keeps your customers coming back for more. One way to do that is with a website that makes it easy and enjoyable for them to shop, browse and buy.

Should Your Website Be Mobile-First or Responsive?

You have to make a lot of decisions when you create your company website. One of them is whether you want your website to be mobile-first or responsive. If you’re not sure what those terms mean, let’s go over a brief definition first.

What Is a Mobile-First Website?

Have you ever logged onto a website from your phone and seen a message that you were entering the mobile version? In some cases, there might be a button that allows you to switch to the full-size version.

A mobile-first website is a stripped-down, smaller version of the larger website. It is tailored to work on the smaller screen size of most phones. Your customers can still do the major things they do on the full website, but in a streamlined, scaled-down way.

Mobile websites often drop features and graphic elements to make the site fit better on a small display.

What Are Responsive Websites?

These are also known as adaptive websites or adaptive builds because they allow your website to automatically adapt to different screen sizes.

An adaptive build assumes that your users will mostly visit your site using a full-size display like a desktop computer or a laptop.

If your website has an adaptive build, it automatically adapts or converts to a different format when you call it up on a smaller-screen device like a phone or a tablet. This process of down-scaling is known by the technical term graceful degradation. That means it gradually loses features, graphic elements and some functions as it reduces in size.

How Is This Different from Mobile-First?

In a mobile-first website, these steps are reversed. The website starts out as a site that’s specifically designed to look good and work well on a phone or other small screen. If a user goes into the website from a desktop, the site scales upward to add features, graphic elements and functions.

From Bare Bones to Full Service

Your mobile website is like having a small, bare-bones room with just a cot and a dresser. When you go into full-size mode, you “scale upwards” with furniture, bedding and toiletries. It’s going from a stripped-down site to one that has all the functions, graphic elements and user benefits your customers want.

Why Would You Need a Mobile-First Website?

The question this raises is, why go for a stripped-down, mobile-first website when you can get an adaptive one that will do everything? Isn’t it better to start off with a fully-equipped room that has everything instead of one that’s stripped clean of stuff you might need later?

It’s a good question, and the answer depends on the type of customer you’re trying to reach.

Who Are Your Customers?

If your customers primarily use mobile sites to get information and make purchases, then it makes sense to build a mobile-first website.

Who Is Most Likely to Use a Mobile-First Website?

A government census survey showed that 68% of households now use mobile broadband, and most of them use their smartphones to get online.

Another survey found that the majority of people worldwide only use their phones to surf the web. According to the World Advertising Research Center,

“Almost three quarters (72.6 percent) of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025, equivalent to nearly 3.7 billion people.”

Who Is Using Each Type of Site?

As website developer Nathan Reimnitz explains, adaptive sites are best for most businesses because they give you the most flexibility, but there are some exceptions.

“Websites for businesses that skew towards more impulsive user decision making, like restaurants and certain e-commerce stores, also benefit from a mobile-first approach,” he writes. “In these cases, examining which devices lead to the majority of sales (not just traffic) will clue you in as to the specific content you should be delivering and how to [build] your site to best optimize it.”

For Customers On the Go

A mobile-first build also makes sense if you’re trying to reach customers who are typically on the go and away from traditional office settings. This could include frequent travelers, gig workers, truck drivers, construction workers, field engineers and similar types of customers.

What Is UX?

You may be seeing a lot of references to this term. It’s a technical term that refers to the way a user experiences your website and web design. It’s a measurement of whether your site works for the type of customer you’re trying to attract.

Why It Matters

You could have the most beautiful website in the world, but if it isn’t tailored to the clients you’re trying to reach, it won’t work. Your website needs to speak to them and reach them in ways your competitors’ websites can’t.

It’s become a buzzword because it’s crucial to creating a successful online presence.

As the blog YourWay puts it,

“The importance of UX is even bigger for young businesses and start-up enterprises, because they usually lack a robust reputation to fall back on. In fact, their chance at future success is generally pinned on the quality of their online platforms as they provide potential customers with an enduring first impression.”

How to Get It

Giving your customers this experience requires a deep understanding of who your customers are, how they use websites and what they expect from yours. An experienced web designer is your best ally in creating this type of website.

Bottom Line: Which Type of Website Is Right for Your Business?

An adaptive website operates on the principle that it’s better to have all the bells, whistles and functions and not need them, than to need them and not have them. That’s a principle that seems to make the most sense for most people and most businesses.

The decision you make depends on several questions:

  • Do your clients and customers primarily use their phones to make purchases?
  • Can you and your customers do without the functions of a full-service, adaptive website?
  • Will you need a full-service site in the future? Why not just get it now?
  • Does your website put the user’s experience front and center?

Technical decisions can be confusing. If you continue putting your customers first, you’ll be going in the right direction.

If you have any questions about the best website for your company, contact IntoClicks today for expert guidance.

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