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Websites are building for mobile devices first and desktop second

The Covid-19 pandemic has made clear to the world the increasing importance of being able to access things online.

doogee n100 smartphone
Image: Ste Knight / KnowTechie

The past few years have seen websites switch to a ‘mobile-first’ outlook for the first time in history. In 2016, the number of mobile internet users worldwide surpassed the number of desktop users for the first time. In the almost four years since the divide between mobile and desktop internet usage continues to grow larger.

Why is mobile internet usage increasing?

Mobile devices are more accessible compared with desktops. It is much easier to open a mobile phone app or web browser than it is to boot up a desktop via your computer or laptop. Although the western world has had access to mobile and desktop internet for over two decades now, the populations of developing countries have only recently been able to gain access to reliable internet connections. In developing countries, mobile devices are much more affordable compared with desktop computers and it is in these developing countries where internet usage is growing at the most rapid rate.

China is the country with the greatest number of internet users and a reported 98% of them access the internet from a mobile device. India is second on the list with 500 million users – 80% of them via mobile devices. Mobile users also prefer to spend their time in apps rather than mobile web browsers. This suggests that apps are in general a more pleasant experience for users than browsers tend to be.

What websites are building for mobile-first in 2020?

Of course, websites will look at their own traffic in order to decide whether they should build for mobile-first or not but an ever-increasing number of websites worldwide will notice that the majority of their users are arriving from a mobile device. Whilst it is obvious that not all websites will receive 50%+ of mobile-only traffic, the trend suggests that the majority will. Different niches will cater to different audiences. Niches that receive a greater number of mobile users over desktop include online news, social media, iGaming, banking, adult, and entertainment websites.

Online News

Online news is among the most visited website niche in the world. Whilst print media will likely become extinct within the next decade, news media is blossoming. Whether or not you believe that online news has brought about the dumbing down of news, the most popular news websites are able to generate millions in revenue via online adverts.

The most popular news websites have their own apps that internet users can download onto their phones. News apps provide users with notifications whenever a story breaks too, meaning they have a direct line to be able to persuade the user to visit their site and read the news they are offering.

89% of the adult mobile population in the USA access news via their mobile device whilst news sites work together with social media. Entertainment news dominates social networks, Twitter and Facebook especially. For news organizations, adapting to evolving audience trends who are primarily using mobile devices is critical to their survival.

Social Media

iuvm social media
Image: Parade

Social media giants, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are among the most visited websites worldwide. Social media websites are accessed by billions of people per year with the majority visiting via their mobile devices. In 2020 the global number of Facebook users is 1.69 billion. 79% of the American population has a Facebook account. 

As of April 2020, only 1.8% of people accessed Facebook via a laptop or desktop computer only. On the other hand, 78% of people visited only via their mobile phones. In total, at least 98.2% of people accessed Facebook by a mobile device at some point within the year. The results for Twitter and Instagram are similar too. Clearly, the social media giants have been building their features around mobile phone users and have been for the last several years.


The iGaming sector is built up of predominantly gambling-related websites. Sports betting, online casino gaming, online poker, online bingo, and esports make up most of the iGaming market. Sports gambling and online casinos make up the largest portion of the iGaming pie and unsurprisingly, the majority of sports bettors and casino players visit and bet via their mobile phones.

Sports betting is perfect for mobile users. Gamblers enjoy placing live bets on matches they are watching. It is very simple to open up a mobile browser or app and place a live sports bet, all without missing any of the action on the television. Playing a game at an online casino via a mobile device is just as easy too which is why the number of mobile users signing up to a casino is close to 80% compared with only 20% accessing them via a laptop or desktop computer.

All new online casino operator websites are now being built primarily with mobile users in mind.


The introduction of internet banking changed the world of banking forever. Like so many other successful industries, banks moved into the online space as soon as they could. Internet banking usage in the UK increased from 30% in 2007 to 73% in 2019. This number is expected to continue to rise. 

According to the Financial Times, 7 out of 10 people in the UK now bank online whilst people are increasingly favoring phones and tablets over desktop and laptop computers. The online banking sector has been hit by some damaging incidents in the past few years. Notably, when VISA’s payment system suffered an outage that temporarily stopped businesses and customers across Europe from making or receiving payments. Nonetheless, customers continue to access their banks to sing their mobile web browsers and apps due to the convenience of it. 

Is the desktop to mobile switch worth it?

The Covid-19 pandemic has made clear to the world the increasing importance of being able to access things online. It is far more convenient to access the internet via mobile phones these days, especially when mobile phone providers are generous with their allowance of data. With 5G being rolled out in 2020, it is almost certain that internet access via mobile devices will continue to rise.

Certainly, it makes sense for websites to be able to cater to mobile phone users before desktop users due to the evidence we have just laid out. If you are in doubt as to whether to build your own website for mobile users first, then we hope that this article has gone some way to persuading you that it is probably the right thing to cater to the mobile user before the desktop user.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Chris has been blogging since the early days of the internet. He primarily focuses on topics related to tech, business, marketing, and pretty much anything else that revolves around tech. When he's not writing, you can find him noodling around on a guitar or cooking up a mean storm for friends and family.

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