Mobile-First vs. Mobile-Friendly: What’s The Difference?

If your brand wants to be inclusive and relevant in today’s world, your website needs to work on mobile phones. “Mobile-friendly” is no longer a feature – it’s a necessity on the web. At the other end of the spectrum, are “mobile-first” websites.

If you’re looking to re-develop your website or put out an RFP in the next year, here’s what you need to know about mobile websites:

1) How Content is Displayed

Mobile-friendly: The desktop version of the website is the basis and starting point of the design. Therefore, the website design starts with all content and features (such as a video, calendar, blog, social feeds, etc.).

Mobile-first: The mobile version of the site is the basis of it’s design. The most important content is displayed first, regardless of the site’s special features and add-ons. Instead of focussing on effects, the design will display content in the most rational way. Eye candy can be added, especially for desktop and tablet versions, but the primary design itself is minimalistic.

2) Responsiveness to Different Devices

Mobile-friendly: The website hides objects and simplifies large elements for smaller devices like smart phones. All website objects are still there, even though they’re hidden from mobile users.

Mobile-first: The website starts off lightweight and adds featured elements as the device’s screen size gets larger. Instead of hiding objects when viewed on a phone, the website adds them when it is being viewed on a TV (for example).

The difference between mobile-friendly and mobile-first (image from metamonks.com)

3) Page-load Speeds and Data Usage

Mobile-friendly: Large imagery and special features always load, even though they are sometimes hidden from mobile users. Even with an optimized website, this slows down page-load speed. The website’s size is often larger, which directly eats up precious mobile data plans.

Mobile-first: Websites that are developed from a mobile-first approach are the most optimized for fast page-load speeds. Starting with a lightweight mobile design allows the website to scale up as needed. Mobile-first is the best approach possible for light websites and fast loading times.


Mobile-first web design is what organizations and brands should expect from their agencies. If you would like a mobile-first website consultation, please get in touch.