From desktops to smartphones to the ever-expanding gamut of connected screens and devices, it is safe to say that on-demand access to information is part of our lives. The way users interact with online content has seen a seismic paradigm shift in the twenty-first century; mobile is the definition of connectivity.

To state the obvious, the mobile browsing experience is significantly different from that of a desktop. Mobile offers the most user-friendly and convenient media use on-the-go while using desktops is confined to a specific stationary area.

According to, the Market Share Worldwide for mobile browsing is 50.34%, while desktop browsing is 46.67%.

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Image Source: broadbandsearch 

Based on the above data by Broadbandsearch (2019), mobile internet usage is poised to grow exponentially and further eclipse desktop.

The one area where mobile does not surpass desktop use is online shopping. The image below shows the device-wise US E-commerce conversion rate until 2019.

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Image Source: broadbandsearch 

Connectivity is a necessity. Thus, companies need to consider the trade-off between mobile and desktop design (especially for web browsing) and adapt strategies accordingly.

Adapting strategy can mean anything from tweaking your website to look good on Android and iOS devices to responsive layouts, CSS media queries, and even building mobile-friendly applications exclusively for mobile-savvy users.

Today, designers are still scrambling to catch up with the game-changing digital design scene.

This blog will help you understand the differences between web and mobile design; to render the ultimate user experience.

Screen Sizes

A larger screen can accommodate more substantial content and information, both of which can be viewed simultaneously while adding more clarity to text and images. We expect a certain degree of content quality compromise on a handheld device. The placement of content also changes significantly.

At the same time, large screens become unwieldy for users on-the-go.

Placing too much content requires users to keep scrolling down till the end of mobile device screens. However, modern mobile browsers allow users to zoom in and out quickly and use adaptive font sizes to make the text more readable.

Content Organization

Placing relevant content logically and strategically on mobile and desktop devices is different. In other words, proper information architecture is crucial for designing for both mediums. Desktop devices support adaptive spacing and multi-column formats that support options like a left- or right-sided navigation menu, sidebars for widgets and ads, and space for card structures.

When designing a mobile user site, you must prioritize content based on the significance of its usage. For a website to look neat and convenient on mobile, you must display vital information at the top of the page, not use heavy content on the page, and use an easy-to-read font. The key idea is to make the page layout user-friendly on the smaller screen, as the minimal screen real estate requires a different approach to designing an interface than a desktop. Thus, when you must design for mobile, you must prioritize your users’ needs in a fully functional way, as simply replicating your desktop interface on to a mobile experience won’t suffice.


More than anything, how users access and navigate their web pages is one of the most important differences between the two.

Users will click on the desired screen object with a cursor to generate an event on most desktops. On mobile, users will use their fingers to tap or touch the screen to navigate or initiate an action. Menus and additional desktop options are accessed with right and left mouse clicks, scrolling, and various keyboard commands. From the phone screen, users will instead take advantage of different hand gestures, such as tap and hold, swiping, and tapping. How a user navigates their apps or websites from a mobile device must be considered serious.

Navigation on mobile is ideal along the top rather than down the side and closer to the right-hand bottom area since most mobile users are right-handed and can easily use thumb gestures for actions.


Mobile devices allow users to take advantage of various hand gestures, such as tap and hold, swiping, pinching, and tapping multiple times. You can use gestures like swiping left and right to move between images in a gallery to enhance the mobile user experience. Adding gesture support to your mobile sites is a great idea for people who don’t prefer moving the mouse. A user will use a keyboard and mouse on a desktop, clicking on indicated items with a cursor. One must consider these differences in the interaction when designing experiences for both platforms.


The concept of mobile ergonomics has become even more powerful in the context of modern-day browsing. It offers comfort and portability on one device, and ergonomic mobile keyboards and other environmentally compatible devices provide full tactile usability to their users.

But when it comes to using the landscape orientation for viewing a video or content on mobile devices, bigger phones pose a problem. Each individual’s typing and navigation styles differ, which is why a design that also supports wrists and joints to alleviate pain is essential.

One way to improve mobile ergonomics is to stack content vertically on the mobile screen. Stacking vertically helps mobile users stick to using their phones in portrait mode (preferred mode). A vertical phone fits more comfortably in their hands and allows for more comfortable hand gestures.

Menu Navigation

Desktop users can take advantage of a global header on websites and some apps, allowing quick navigation. Mobile screens do not share the same amount of screen real estate, and therefore must rely on other more creative options for accessing these features.

Many apps use a side or hamburger menu to access other features packed into it on a mobile interface. However, displaying multiple categories and sub-categories similar to desktop screens is difficult on mobile devices. As screen real-estate, multiple clicks/taps, and precision may get compromised for text links.

Single-menu designs for mobile incorporate expansion and contraction features, in addition to large text or buttons and vertical alignment, to accommodate as many options as possible.


Being able to run more apps or do more in the background is a true blessing. Poor multitasking support on mobile websites can affect the way you design them. Sometimes, filling and downloading a file in the background can cause errors or slow device performance.

On the other hand, mobile devices offer better multitasking when you are on-the-move. You can book a ticket, schedule a meeting, browse apps, share screens, and much more. Desktops offer the same multitasking benefits but in one place.

Thus, strategizing multitasking is imperative on mobile devices today after understanding what your target users need.

Form Filling

Web forms are great for online conversions, especially if filling them out is convenient. A poorly designed form can be a conversion-killer, so vertical alignment is an important consideration to make, as scrolling back and forth is tedious when forms are horizontally aligned.

Web Browsers and Apps

Designers may differ depending on whether you want to use a mobile or desktop for an app or browsing. Almost 86% of online smartphone time is spent in apps, and only 14% is spent on web browsers. It’s quite the opposite of desktops.

Desktop browser features like bookmarking, printing, or opening links in new windows are not available when viewing web pages within apps (on mobile devices).

Viewing websites in mobile apps means crammed information in smaller spaces if proper information architecture is not considered and applied.

The load time of apps and web pages is faster on desktops because of the processor speed and bandwidth support. Mobile browsers take longer to respond, and JavaScript-intensive pages can run very slowly. A simple and optimized page layout for mobile browsers that use less markup and CSS is useful for slideshows, interactive forms, etc.

People and Devices

The context of use, or the individual and the tasks they wish to complete, is one of the major differences between mobile and desktop web experience. Put, mobile and desktop devices serve different purposes and are used for different reasons.

People use computers while,

  • Sitting at their desk
  • In an office environment
  • Randomly surfing the web
  • Creating content or working on long and more-involved tasks involving special features
  • Programming and performing configurations and technical tasks

People use mobiles while,

  • Looking for instant information
  • Performing a quick task like booking a ticket
  • Sending out a quick email or message or a quick file share
  • Chatting
  • Walking around or being on-the-move
  • Consuming content or using an app
  • Being at home, work, or other public places
  • Inventive tasks using AR/VR, multi-camera support, sensor-based metering, mobile contact list, RFID, IoT, etc.

Wrapping up

When designing any mobile website, it’s essential to keep these differences in mind. By considering the points listed above in your website and application strategy, you can provide an exceptional user experience for both these mediums.

What are some ways to take advantage of the differences between mobile and desktop for your design projects?

Which do you prefer designing for, mobile or desktop? Let us know.

If you’re unhappy with your current business applications’ user experience, the creative design team at Radiant can help you change that for both desktop and mobile! Call us today.