Mobile-first vs Responsive Web Design – What is the Difference?

Mobile-first has been the buzzword in web development for some time now. This is often confused with another concept – Responsive design. No, they are not the same. They are two distinct concepts. What is the difference? What should you adopt for your website? The Codesquad web development team throws some light on the mobile-first vs responsive web design debate.

What is a Mobile-first Web Design?

Mobile-first design implies a proactive approach to web design. It focuses on designing primarily for mobile users. This design centres exclusively on the mobile interface, with fewer and more relevant content and images that are optimised.

Some noticeable features of Mobile-First Design.

Expandable “Hamburger” Menus

A mobile-first approach modifies the navigation process significantly by introducing hamburger menus which opens up into a side menu or navigation drawer. This makes the navigation easier while you browse through a website on your smartphone and prevent from the inconvenience to have to open multiple tabs.

Larger Buttons

Mobile-first designs pay special attention to anything clickable to improve the user experience of smartphone users. Since users navigate using their thumb, the buttons, hyperlinked sections and items in a clickable list need to be larger and spaced further apart.

Consolidated Content

When it comes to mobile-first content, less is more. While responsive websites do consolidate all the content on a desktop, it’s not always favourable to the average mobile visitor’s reading preference. Mobile-first websites need to simplify long content and provide information in a concise and crisp way that today’s mobile-users will engage with.

Read our blog on how to create mobile-first content to know more about mobile-first content.

Larger Font Sizes

The recommended font size on the mobile-first website is no smaller than 16 pixels. The focus for mobile devices is to make information easy to browse so that users can quickly find what they seek. For example- large headings help to divide content into smaller, scannable segments.

To know more, read Mobile-first Websites

Responsive Web Design

Responsive design will allow the site to display the web page at the exact configuration of the device in which it is run. Generally, responsive design begins with the desktop, and then it gets down to smaller screens like tablets and mobile. This is done with the help of CSS media queries.

Mobile-first Vs Responsive Web Design - Codesquad

Mobile-First Design and Responsive Design – What’s the Key Difference

The main distinction between mobile-first design and responsive web design is how the web designer approaches the website. A responsive web design is a technical approach. The design starts with the desktop and then configure for transforming fluidly to fit other devices. A mobile-first is a proactive design strategy. The primary user is the mobile reader. The website is then scaled up for larger viewports.

As you can see, both designs allow your website accessible on all devices. So, which is the best approach for your business?

Why Mobile-First Design Matters for Your Business

More than half of your audience is viewing your webpage on the mobile device. This audience will mostly never view your site on a desktop. A website optimised for mobile-first will help you attract, engage and retain this audience.

If you want your website to work well on mobiles and desktops, mobile-first is the best way. Why? When you design for a mobile website, your focus is on the user experience. Mobile-first design forces you to start with the necessary content and features that are required for your site to be functional. Your site will have only critical elements and will load faster. You can scale it up with additional features for a desktop. This way, you have a website that functions amazingly on mobiles and scales up beautifully on a desktop.

With Google’s announcement on mobile-first indexing and increasing mobile internet usage, the shift to mobile-first websites is a necessity. Planning to make your website a mobile-first one? Codesquad’s web design experts in Perth will help you to create an optimised, user and Google friendly mobile-first website. Contact us today or email at, let us help your website to be a mobile-first one.

Codesquad is a member of The Computing Australia Group of Companies.

Jargon Buster

Indexing – Means that your page is eligible to display in SERPs. It is the collection of contents (found while crawling) to be displayed in SERPs.
UXUser eXperience is how users feel when interfacing with a system. The system can be a website, a web app or desktop software.