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Allison Assifuah
Allison Assifuah

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Embracing the Mobile-First Approach(design).

Table of content:

  1. Introduction
  2. The mobile-first approach
  3. Difference between mobile-first design and responsive web design
  4. Why opt for mobile-first approach
  5. Conclusion


According to Statista, 7.1 billion people worldwide used mobile devices in 2021. This number is projected to reach 7.49 billion by 2025. Over 80% of these mobile users browse the web on their mobile devices, and up to 70% of web traffic comes from mobile devices. Half of the world’s internet users (approximately 3.4 billion) browse the web through smartphones.
This means the likelihood of having more people with mobile devices visiting your website is higher than those using desktops. In this article, we delve into the importance of adopting the mobile-first approach in coding, exploring its benefits, and how it enhances user experience across all devices.

Before mobile phones and tablets became popular, web developers and web designers designed and wrote code for webpages with only computer screens in mind. It was also common for these web pages to have fixed sizes and a static design. Later, mobile phones became popular. It became clear that these fixed and static web pages were not suitable to view on mobile devices. As a result, designers and web developers had to find a way to make webpages work better on all kinds of screens.

Different solutions were developed to help make webpages more accessible to all types of device screens. Adaptive web design was the first solution embraced. Adaptive web design involved creating different versions of designs for different screen sizes. This process was tedious and time-consuming. Moreover, it was difficult to maintain many versions of a website.

In response to this problem, designers and web developers came up with a different approach to make screens more flexible and adaptable. This new approach was called Responsive web design. Responsive web design involves creating webpages that can change and adjust themselves to fit different devices. The layout and design in responsive web design are done by resizing, hiding, shrinking, or enlarging, parts of the web page so it looks good on all devices(desktops, tablets, and phones). Responsive web design automatically shifts web page content to fit different screen sizes. Even though this method seems better, responsive web design also has disadvantages. For example, it can sometimes be difficult to control the layout of content on smaller screens. Using features such as panning, zooming, and scrolling on responsive web pages can become a headache.

Compared to adaptive web design, responsive web design was not time-consuming and easier to maintain. Respond web design eliminates the need for web developers and designers to create different versions for each screen size.

Responsive web design sounds and looks way better right? All web pages developed nowadays are responsive.

What about the mobile-first approach?

A mobile-first approach involves creating webpages with mobile users as your primary focus. When designing a webpage, the designer starts by designing for mobile devices and then scale up to larger screens. Similarly, when a web developer codes a webpage, they begin with the smallest screen size and then expand it to fit larger screens.

All mobile-first designs and codes are responsive, but not all responsive web pages are mobile-first. This may seem confusing, so let me explain the difference.

Difference between a responsive web design and a mobile-first design.

The main difference between responsive web design and mobile-first design is the approach that designers and developers take when building a website. Responsive web design allows designers and developers to start building or designing for any screen size. They can start with the largest screen and work their way down to the smallest screen, or they can start with the smallest screen and work their way up to the largest screen. Mobile-first web design, on the other hand, requires designers and developers to strictly start with the smallest screen and work their way up to the largest screen.

Both responsive and mobile-first web designs make websites accessible on all devices. However, a mobile-first design offers a better overall experience for users. This is because, mobile-first design considers a variety of factors during the design and development phase, such as whitespace, font size, and load time.

Here is a table that summaries the key difference between responsive web design and mobile-first design:

Feature Responsive web design Mobile-First design
Starting point Desktop or larger screens size Smallest screen size
Adaptability Responsive to different screen sizes Starts with mobile and adapts to larger screens
Best for Websites that have an existing desktop design and need to adapt it for mobile devices Websites or applications with a primary focus on mobile users, aiming for optimized mobile experience

Why you should use the mobile-first approach.

The importance of adopting the mobile-first approach often sparks debate among web developers. Some argue that as long as the end-user can view and interact with the webpage, that should be the primary concern. However, using mobile has many advantages such as:

  • Priority in Search Engine Ranking. Search engines, such as Google, rank mobile-friendly websites first in their search results. This means that the Google smartphone bot crawls the website and then assess how mobile-friendly the content of the website is. Sites created on the mobile-first design principle are given a certain priority by default. Using the mobile-first approach, web developers can boost their chances of ranking higher in mobile searches. This results in improved visibility and organic traffic.

  • Designing and developing using the mobile-first approach helps make you prioritize user needs. A straightforward webpage that focuses on the main content and functionality helps to ensure that consumers can locate what they are looking for fast and effortlessly. It forces designers and developers to only show the necessary information needed by the user.

  • Accessibility. Accessibility is the practice of ensuring that information is available and usable for as many people as possible. Mobile devices are often used in a variety of situations and environments. The mobile-first approach promotes accessibility by ensuring that websites are functional for persons with impairments.

  • According to a survey made by Google, 57% of visitors are likely to not return to a website if the loading performance is poor. Not optimizing your website for mobile users means losing users.

  • Mobile-first approach helps reduce redundancy in web developers codebase. By starting with the mobile version and progressively enhancing it for larger screens, developers avoid unnecessary code modifications and duplications. This method simplifies the creation process, increases efficiency, and allows for easier maintenance and upgrades. Mobile-first design ensures cleaner, more maintainable, and future-proof code.


The decision of which approach to use for designing and developing webpages is ultimately up to you. However, opting for the mobile-first approach can offer several benefits. It saves you time, reduces the amount of code you need to write, and ensures that your end-users still enjoy a positive experience.
Thank you for reading. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments section.

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