It should be made clear from the very start that I’m not a web designer. In that case, why am I writing about website design? I’ll answer that in a minute.

While attending a web development seminar, geared towards business people, not developers, the presenter asked whether it was best to develop a website for desktop or mobile first. I for one had never considered the question. I understood enough to know most websites are developed for desktop and then configured to fit mobile devices. I’d never thought of mobile first or if it even made a difference. After the seminar, I did a little research and learned it does make a difference. Maybe not for every business but every business thinking about building a site should know the difference. And that’s why I decided to write this post.

The Way Website Design Used to be

Traditionally website design has been geared toward desktop, and then formatted for mobile. However, the world is changing. Think about these numbers, “There are more mobile internet users than desktop internet users; 52.7% of global internet users access the internet via mobile, and 75.1% of U.S. internet users access the internet via mobile. Mobile media time in the U.S. has exceeded desktop, with mobile media time estimated to be 51% while desktop media time is estimated to be 42%.” — Mobile Statistics and Facts 2016

Graceful Degradation

The concept of graceful degradation is when developing a site for desktop, the designer uses all the bells and whistles available for desktop to enhance the site and meet the owner’s purposes. Many of these add-ons will not be accepted on mobile versions. So the mobile site becomes a lesser version of the original. The mobile becomes a compromise and often seems as if the design was an afterthought rather than a well thought out product. I’m not a web developer, but I’ve seen this time and time again.

Progressive Enhancement

Progressive enhancement is the opposite of graceful degradation in that the design begins with mobile and builds back to desktop. Designing mobile first doesn’t make mobile an afterthought. Instead of eliminating product the developer adds bells and whistles to the desktop version. Content no longer needs to be removed to fit a platform—just the opposite.

Responsive vs Adaptive 

“Put simply, responsive is fluid and adapts to the size of the screen no matter what the target device. Responsive uses CSS media queries to change styles based on the target device such as display type, width, height etc., and only one of these is necessary for the site to adapt to different screens.

Adaptive design, on the other hand, uses static layouts based on breakpoints which don’t respond once they’re initially loaded. Adaptive works to detect the screen size and load the appropriate layout for it…” — UXpin

What’s Best for You?

In the majority of cases, responsive design is the logical step in web development. What’s best for you is to hire a developer that can offer graceful degradation or progressive enhancement. The development of your next website shouldn’t be limited to the skills and knowledge of the designer. It should be a choice based on your wants and needs. If you’d like to discuss design, please Contact Us.

Photo Credit: Unsplash Photos Photo by Clément H