Mobile first or a responsive website. Which is better?

Your website needs to work across any device that a user wants to view it on, desktop, mobile and tablet.

A responsive web design is now viewed as standard website protocol. Your website needs to work across any device that a user wants to view it on, desktop, mobile and tablet. From a website design perspective, that has traditionally meant starting with the design of the desktop version and ensuring that its functionality, still works when the site is viewed on a mobile phone or tablet. Now, we’re seeing designers and developers take a different approach by starting the web design process by developing a mobile version of a website, or a mobile application first. No prizes for guessing that this process is called ‘Mobile first’.

What’s the difference?

It’s not just a case of tweaking the process. Whether you’re looking at developing a corporate website or a niche ecommerce site, There’s a big difference between responsive web design and a Mobile First website so it’s useful to know exactly what each term means – along with the work these approaches involve.

Mobile First – we’ve already established how this design approach got its name. The priority for a mobile first design is about utilising any and every advantage a smart phone does or doesn’t provide, such as:

  • Fast loading
  • Content first – the details your user wants
  • Uses GPS, which enables geolocation
  • Mobile first can lead to development of a mobile application
  • A mobile first website prioritises content, so it might look different to your website.

Responsive web design (RWD) – here, the same content ‘responds’ to the device that it is being viewed on. That content includes graphics, images, photos, PDFs and everything else that is available on the desktop version of the site. A responsive website adapts to user behaviour, so some aspects of the site might be ‘hidden’ or simplified in the mobile or tablet view, but from a developer’s perspective, it’s all still there at the backend of the site.

Responsive web design

What are your customers saying?

If you’ve been around websites for a while, you know it’s easier than ever to get good insights into your online customer preferences and user behaviour. To help you decide which of these two approaches is going to work best for your business, there are some key questions you need to address first:

  • How are users accessing your site now?
  • How long are your users spending on your website?
  • Does your business rely on impulsive or quick decision-making? (Such as, restaurant bookings, ecommerce stores, cinema ticket sales)
  • Will you need to be making constant updates or changes to your content?
  • Who will be updating content? In-house? Agency?


A mobile-first design can lead to a mobile application rather than a full blown website. The real issue is how either a responsive website or a mobile-first website is going to work with your overall digital strategy?

iFactory is a responsive web design company that works across the entire digital spectrum providing both mobile first website design and responsive web design in Brisbane, as well as application development, digital marketing and digital strategy advice, services and support. Every day we help a wide range of companies use smart development technologies and innovative design to grow their business. Contact us to see how we can help your business reach its potential.

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