Mobile-Friendly versus Mobile-First; What’s the Difference?

More and more people are using mobile devices to visit your website. Every device is slightly different in size. This makes having a responsive website for your business very important.

What exactly is a responsive web design? Well, it basically means you design a website to display properly on most device shapes and sizes. This includes both the content, the design and the speed the site loads.

There are a few different techniques web designers use to ensure a company has a responsive website. People also use different words to describe different ideas related to the concept of responsive web design.

Mobile-Friendly Web Design

Mobile-friendly is exactly what the name implies. You just make your website friendly for people visiting on mobile devices. This is very important because according to Search Engine Land, Google has said that in the United States there are more mobile searches than desktop searches.

That doesn’t mean you ignore desktop visitors, as they are still important too. The goal of mobile-friendly is not necessarily to be only mobile-friendly. It presupposes you already have a website that is friendly on a desktop or laptop computer. You can think of mobile-friendly as an add-on of sorts.

This is even truer if you are in a B2B industry. Decision makers at businesses tend to make their purchasing decisions at the office on actual computers. On the flip side, they also use mobile phones like everyone else, so you really need to have your website looking great on desktop and mobile.

One trend that is becoming less popular is making a separate version of your website for mobile visitors. For example, if we deployed this strategy we’d have for non-mobile users and for mobile users. We don’t do this of course — and we’ll explain why in a second — so the second link here will take you to our regular responsive website.

This method was never ideal for two main reasons. First, you have to maintain two whole website designs and in some cases two sets of content. Second, it’s confusing to your visitors, especially when they share links to your website. You don’t want visitors sharing your mobile link to someone on a desktop, and vice versa.

For that reason, it’s generally considered a website design best practice to use responsive web design to make your website mobile-friendly. This makes your website look great on all devices regardless of screen size or aspect ratio.

Mobile-First Web Design

Now, you can think of mobile-first as taking mobile-friendly to the next level. You don’t just make your website friendly for people on their mobile devices. You actually think about them first as the primary consumers of your website.

By doing this, you are taking even more advantage of everything we mentioned regarding mobile-friendly. More people are searching on mobile devices, and the number is growing every year. According to Hootsuite, mobile traffic increased by 4% from 2016 to 2017 to reach 52% of all web traffic. That means mobile users are now the majority in terms of searches and overall traffic.

This data really illustrates why mobile-first is becoming more and more popular when designing websites. More people are using mobile, so you should be thinking about that with all of your marketing efforts. Website design is no different, and actually one of the most important places to have a mobile-first mentality.

Another factor indicating that this is a trend that will not be slowing down anytime soon is what Google is doing now. They announced in March of 2018, they will now be moving to a mobile-first indexing strategy. This means they will be indexing (looking at and evaluating) your website as it appears on a mobile device.

Previously, Google would look at websites from the perspective of desktop users. They, like many others, are now focusing their attention first on mobile users. They will start with the most mobile-friendly websites. But it would not be surprising if that expands to all websites sooner rather than later.

What’s Better? Mobile-Friendly or Mobile-First

Any mobile strategy is better than none, because mobile device usage on the Internet will continue to grow. Mobile-friendly is a good start, but mobile-first is the future.

However, if you want to maximize your digital marketing, you should think about all of your potential customers and how they view your content. Then design with that in mind. This includes mobile, desktop, tablets, and other web devices.

The best way to design with everyone in mind is to use responsive web design with a mobile-first mindset. Responsive web design ensures your website looks amazing no matter how it’s viewed. And thinking mobile-first allows you to keep the majority on visitors on the top of your mind while doing that.

If you are starting from scratch, using responsive web design and having a mobile-friendly site is a given. Professional web designers know this is the right way to do things. Since it’s usually the default option now, it really should not affect the cost of your business website.

You should still always ask your web designer just to be sure they will be taking mobile devices into consideration. If they seem unsure or hesitant, you may want to look for another company or person to hire. Or get a second opinion at the very least. Your website is super important and not something to take lightly.

Have a horror or success story about visiting or creating a website that wasn’t mobile friendly? Or maybe a comment or question about optimizing your website for mobile? Let us know in the comments, and we’d be happy to respond.

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