To Design For Desktop First or Mobile First, That Is The Question

August 24, 2017

Imagine you’re on your smart phone or other mobile device, searching for the website for a new company you heard about. You click on the .com and find what looks like a very impressive logo and amazingly designed website. But you can’t exactly tell if that’s what you’re seeing, because the website hasn’t been optimized for mobile phones! You try to scroll back left, right, up and down to get the full picture of the site and to find some sort of menu bar to click on, but it’s near impossible with just your thumb.
This company clearly designed their website for desktop use first and foremost. The problem is that they never worked it into a compatible mobile device layout. In this day and age, isn’t it better to go with the masses and design a website based on a mobile device’s interface? The answer isn’t as simple as it might seem.
Mobile first
Any web designer will be able to explain the vast differences between setting up a website for mobile devices versus desktop. Yes, many people are scrolling through their devices while on the go. But that’s doesn’t necessarily mean a website should cater towards mobile device users.
A mobile device website is often a shortened version of the full desktop website. While all of the information still might be there, it will be in a different package. Not necessarily a worse or better package, just—different. Hence why there isn’t exactly a clear cut answer to the desktop versus mobile question.
Desktop first
On the flip side, a website made for a desktop will be all encompassing. There’s more room for special effects, design elements and various media that the company wants to include. Understandably, it’s common to find companies that specialize in web design in Toronto, Los Angeles, Miami and New York who believe creating a desktop version first helps get the big picture of what a client wants, right from the start. This allows for a better idea of what needs to be done for the smaller, mobile device friendly design.
Imagine an artist paints a huge, beautiful portrait of someone with plenty of detail. They’re then asked to paint the same person but on a much smaller canvas. It’s much easier to remove some of the detailing and paint the same content just on a smaller scale than it would be to go from a small, less detailed version to a large scale, complicated portrait.
While there might be specific reasons a mobile device-first web design would work for your web design project (such as a website that’s specifically for on-the-go customers who don’t have access to a desktop), for many projects, it’s more beneficial to start with a desktop version for your own sanity and valuable time. It seems to be best to always start with a large, blank canvas to allow for all possibilities to shine through, so as not to miss anything important or pertinent for the content on your website.