It has been apparent in the last few years that your online presence can no longer be thought of as confined to the space of your humble desktop computer.

The ever-increasing market of smart phones, tablets and other portable devices has meant that access to your site content has never been easier. With the introduction to 4G later this year by all network companies, network speeds will drastically improve and viewing sites on the go of any size is sure to be the next standard in web browsing.

So what should you do when it comes to designing or updating your website? Should you prepare your site to be mainly focused on desktop users, or should you aim to design it around the mobile user? It is no surprise that when viewing a site on different screen sizes you will notice the difference. Responsive web design certainly allows you to cater for all these users and will prepare your site for the future devices that will be released, but who should you be designing for?

A mobile first or desktop down approach diagram

From the mobile up or the desktop down?

There has been an ongoing argument in the web design world for a few years now, should you design from the mobile up, or from the desktop down? The approach to both these arguments are basically the same, design a website with a layout and then modify it as the screen size increases or decreases. There are arguments for and against both of these techniques, however it should boil down to what kind of experience you want to present to your user.

By designing for the small screen first, you will certainly be able to cut down on the unnecessary content of your site, allowing you to concentrate on what should be presented first and to remove any content that could be considered waffle or page fill.

By contrast, designing from the desktop gives you a greater deal of space to include more details, a handy thing if you have a very complex site. The structure for small devices after that can simply be moved around to give the best possible layout for what you have included, whereas from the mobile up, you may feel there is too much space for the concise content you have strategically cut down..

Remember who you’re designing for

Whatever way you choose, you will have to make a decision on what you want to include on your site, and more importantly who will be viewing it. Both techniques will offer you an option to deal with this, but with so many new devices being released, and browsing trends consistently changing, it is certainly worth knowing who your target audience are, looking at what your site is selling and who it should be selling to.

Should you go for mobile first or begin from the desktop down? Ultimately the choice is yours, however spare a little consideration for  your users, after all it is them that will keep your business going and help to spread your name and brand.

Posted in Mobile Design, Responsive Design, User Experience, Website Design.

5 Comments

  1. I think “Who you are designing for” is everyone! Regardless of what browsing device they are using, your site should give them a good experience.

    Are you saying that you would give mobile and desktop users different content? Yes, you should “make a decision on what you want to include on your site” but I think it should be the same or closely similar for all. Yes, you can take a mobile-first approach to building the site in terms of CSS and other techniques but I’d argue that the information you present should be the same (or very similar) to both mobile and desktop users. How it is presented my be different but the content is essentially the same. After all, if you are removing “waffle or page fill” for mobile device users, I think this should be removed for desktop users as well!

    • Thank you for the reply Clive,

      I certainly agree that you are designing for everyone, however what I meant was that the device you are using should play a part in your design process. I certainly would not advise the use of presenting two different types of content at all, that would cause a whole series of issues for SEO.

      What I am suggesting, especially in the case of mobile users, is that browsing on the move means you have less time to read a lengthy article or page. I like to think approaching a mobile first design will allow you to be far more critical over what content should be included to provide the best experience for your users, which can then be built upwards for desktop. You will also be considering file size and load times much earlier in the design process, approaching the small screen and slower load times first and then progressively enhancing your site upwards.

      If you design for the desktop downwards you will have a greater page space and therefore “may” be inclined to add more “unnecessary content”, something it is worth considering at the design stage.

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