In the modern day, mobile traffic and desktop traffic share a roughly 50/50 split and so it can be tough to decide whether a desktop first or mobile first approach is the best route to take during your web design. With this in mind, it’s no longer about reaching the most people but instead catering to your specific target audience. In this article we will look into the two different approaches, how to optimise for both, and considerations you need to take to discover which approach is best for your website. If you find yourself struggling on what approach to take, we recommend speaking to web design experts.

Web Design – Mobile-first design

Mobile first is about providing an ease of use for site visitors by providing them with what they need on a small screen. Mobile-first strategy is also referred to as content-first strategy because of the way the content has to be organised on the website according to it’s importance as, unlike desktop-first, not all information can fit on the user’s screen. This design approach tends to be more costly than desktop-first simply due to the extensive planning phase that has to be complete to design a flexible website that allows visitors to easily complete their goals.

Optimizing for Desktop After A Mobile-First Strategy

If you’ve gone with the mobile-first design mentioned above, there will be less hassle when building a responsive design for desktop. When optimising for desktop from a mobile-first strategy, try to keep the site’s content as minimal as possible, you can bring in more (necessary) information and an improve menu system but there’s no need to add more simply because you can. The best approach is to think about your user and their goals. When they land on your site from a desktop, what are they hoping to achieve?

Desktop-first design

Desktop-first is the easier, and cheaper approach. Desktop first allows you to display and communicate information more effectively as users will have a larger screen. Less is more with desktop first design, just because you can chuck everything on the page doesn’t mean you should. Instead, designing a desktop version of the site allows you to spread the page so it’s less crowded and making it easier for visitors to see vital information and move through the site easily.

Optimizing for Mobile After A Desktop-First Strategy

When businesses implement a desktop-first strategy and then run a responsive design for mobile, there will usually be a loss of user experience. This is because they try to include everything that is on the desktop site, making it cramped and difficult to navigate. Instead, you want to identify the key parts of each page and focus on only placing those pieces onto your mobile design. You can also look at ways to make elements smaller without losing the experience, a common example would be a burger menu icon on your mobile site instead of a full menu.

Which strategy is better : Mobile-first vs Desktop-first?

This question can’t simply be answered on a one size fits all basis. Instead, the best solution is to take a deep dive into your Google Analytics and go to Audience > Mobile > Overview. Here you will see the % of users entering your site from different devices (mobile, desktop, tablet etc…). Look at the last 6 months or year and compare it to the 6 months or year previous to that. This will give you a good idea of the devices used by your sites visitors and, along with the factors below, help you make your decision on mobile first or desktop first.


As mentioned previously, the mobile-first strategies tend to be more expensive than desktop design due to spending more time on planning and research. If your budget is tight, building a desktop first design and a mobile version afterwards might be better suited for you. However, if your budget is tight but the majority of your visitors come from mobile, you should invest as you’re more likely to see better ROI as you’re suiting more of your customers needs. If you do have a limited budget and are needing a mobile website, speak to our web design experts who are happy to help.

Type of product

The product or service that you offer will help you to figure out which design is the best approach. How do consumers look for your products, and how do they use these products? What we mean here is if, for example, you’re a travel site, having a desktop-first website would be better as 79% of people book their travels on desktop. Whereas, if you are a clothing company, you would better benefit from a mobile-first website due to people spending more on mobile than desktop.


How complex or simple can you make your user interface? If you have a design which is very complex and can’t easily be simplified, you might default to desktop as it allows you to provide the necessary information. However, if you can make an easy to navigate site that isn’t crowded on a small screen, it might be easier to default to mobile and build a desktop responsive design.

Final Thoughts

Whether you focus more on desktop users or mobile users is different for each business. Multiple factors have to be taken into consideration before you make that decision. The most important factor when deciding between mobile and desktop is your consumers. How do they prefer to search the web, what information are they looking for, and are their preferences changing?

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