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Tech & Trends

Responsive vs mobile-first hotel websites

03 April 2020


Have you ever wondered why your hotel’s website looks different on your laptop than it does on your smartphone? How do developers achieve this flexibility and what are the different approaches? This blog post is going to explain the difference between responsive and mobile-first hotel websites and its relevance for your hotel or travel business.

Why does my hotel need a mobile-friendly website?

In a time where your mobile phone is probably no further than an arm’s length away from you it comes to no surprise that last year (2019), almost half the internet traffic across the world was from mobile devices.

With around 5 billion people in the world with mobile devices (around 2.7 billion of these are smartphones) having mobile-friendly websites have become a necessity rather than a ‘nice to have’. It is probably safe to say that some users will probably never see your desktop website and long gone are the days of having a separate mobile website for hotels. There are two main approaches to having a mobile-friendly website which we’ll go into below.

What is responsive design?

While responsive and mobile-first design are trying to achieve the same goal, it’s their approaches that differ. A responsive design approach means that your hotel’s website will adapt to different devices automatically. What this means for us developers is that we take desktops designs and use CSS (the styling of a site) to adjust the way a site looks on different devices, namely mobile devices. The coding does become more complex and the focus here is that this website is built for desktop first and then adapted to mobile.

What is mobile-first design?

This approach says it all in the name, we approach the design of the website from a mobile phone perspective first and then we scale that up to a desktop website. The thinking behind this is, why design a website for a medium where most users don’t have the quickest access to (desktops) and force it to function on mobile? Shouldn’t the approach be to design and build a website based on where most will see your website first and also have it work on desktop? While it can be confusing to think that responsive mobile design is the same as a mobile-first design, the difference comes from the design strategy. We consider what users want to achieve on your website, what content they see, how simplistic the site needs to be, as well as making sure the mobile site loads as quickly as possible to ensure instant gratification.

So which approach is better?

Yes, a mobile first-design does make sense and the numbers show that we are moving towards higher mobile users. Also if you do some research on the matter you’ll find numerous articles saying that this is the way forward. But there’s no correct answer here as both approaches are needed, more so in the hospitality sector. In our sector, cross-device journeys are common so we must cater for omnichannel users by having amazing designs for desktops sites whilst still having super fast and simple mobile sites. So the ‘hot take’ here is, whatever your approach to website design is, make sure it’s mobile-friendly and make sure it’s responsive.

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