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Mobile-First Design Vs. Adaptive. What Is the Difference?

If you start to disassemble this topic from the very beginning, then you should immediately note that the idea of mobile-first is that the design is initially developed for mobile screens, and after that, the design is adapted for devices with large screens and a desktop. This approach avoids oversights such as the poor layout of elements on the screen or broken links. In this article, we will analyze in detail how mobile-first differs from adaptive. Without further ado, let’s get started.

Difference Between Mobile-First and Adaptive Design

Before you see the differences between the two for yourself, it's worth talking about the most basic design approaches, such as adaptive and responsive.

Adaptive Design

The main idea of responsive design is that websites created using this technology have several layouts. Each layout differs from the other in the placement and size of the elements that are adapted to certain screen sizes. For example, a user opened a site via a mobile device. The website engine determines from which device the website was opened, what screen sizes and aspect ratios the device has. After that, the engine loads the site layout relevant to this data. There are three main layouts in total:

4'-6'- standard size of smartphone screens

7'-11'- standard tablet screen size

12 inches or more - desktop PCs and laptops.

Mobile-First Design Vs. Adaptive

Responsive Design

Responsive design works a little differently. There is only one flexible layout that adjusts its size, arrangement of elements, and their sizes to the screen resolution itself. It even goes so far that if the screen resolution changes by at least half an inch, the site will automatically move some elements to better match the screen of the device.

A distinctive feature of responsive design is cost efficiency since you only need to create one website layout, which greatly decreases website design cost. However, testing such a site takes more time as you need to make sure that the design looks great on all possible devices.

In a nutshell, adaptive and responsive designs are inherently very similar. However, while adaptive design fixes content to fit the screen, responsive design resizes it dynamically.

Mobile-First Design

Now, it’s time to talk about our main topic. For a complete picture, it is worth visiting from afar. The main problem with adaptive and responsive design is that websites are initially developed for desktop devices, and only after that they are adapted for mobile devices. Quite an old-fashioned and lengthy approach, isn't it?

Mobile-First Design

The mobile-first strategy is a game-changer. First, the whole design is developed for mobile devices, and only after designers adapt it for desktop. And the main goal of designers in developing mobile-first design is to place all the elements in the limited space of a mobile device. That being said, everything should look attractive and provide a great user experience.

Why Mobile-First Design Is Vital For Business

Let's start with the basics. Mobile devices are pushing the business forward, and all thanks to the huge conversion on them. According to socPub research, conversions on mobile devices increased by 64% compared to any other device.

In addition to stunning conversions, websites built with mobile-first designs rank higher in the search results. Google rewards websites like this well, prompting many businesses to follow a mobile-first strategy.

And the final plus for business is the performance of such websites. Every extra second of site loading is a minus to conversion. With mobile-first, you will always stay ahead of the competition and deliver a great user experience.

Mobile-First Content Adaptation

Website content is always the most important part of the design. When following the mobile-first strategy, designers must provide all the content they want to users, but this is limited by the screen size of the mobile device. And in such cases, some design elements go under the knife. However, you should not remove site elements from all versions just to fit all the content. Some elements that are missing in the mobile version may be useful on the desktop.

Also, it should be borne in mind that users of the desktop versions of the site will often look for more detailed information or functions, while on a mobile device, such features will be superfluous.

Tips to Make Mobile-First Design Right

When creating your own mobile-first design, it would be wise to follow these tips to make no mistakes:

Tip #1. Draw up a content list

Tip #2. Set priorities for all content

Tip #3. Make tappable area bigger

Tip #4. Look at the design from a mobile app perspective

Tip #5. It’s not recommended to use large scale and complex images

Tip #6. Take care of typography

Tip #7. Avoid sticking content to screen edges

Wrapping Up

As you can see, mobile-first design is a game-changer in website creation. It brings a lot of benefits to businesses and ordinary users. Now, you are armed with knowledge and ready to make your own mobile-first design.

My name is Katherine Orekhova and I am a technical writer at Cleveroad - mobile app development company. I'm keen on technology and innovations. My passion is to tell people about the latest tech trends in the world of IT.

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