Design process - responsive website versus mobile app?


Would your process be different between responsive website versus mobile app for your UX process? What would it depend on?


It really depends on the website and the mobile app or web app.


Of couse, everything depends in UX :slight_smile:

If you’ve just been added to a project as the UX designer and the team doesnt know if the experience needs to just be a responsive web experience vs a native mobile app how would you decide? I guess that’s a different way to look at it.


I do not see much difference between mobile app and mobile web site. So, according to the “mobile first” doctrine, you could probably start designing for mobile, anyway.

But… how is that possible that design starts when the target platform is unclear? :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


Native apps are only really necessary for complex apps in my view. There are big speed advantages (the main reason Facebook abandoned responsive for native). However, there are considerations when choosing native e.g. prompting mobile users to download app. And then there is the added cost for getting in specialist App developers and the effort in getting it accepted into the app store.

This sounds more like a business decision than a UX decision?


I wrote a blog post about this very thing


Let’s say you have Client projects you are working on:

One project want’s a responsive website
Another wants a native mobile app built

How would you begin your UX process in each case?


Well, you have to first ask them why. How will it help their users and improve their business.


how do they know?

we get this kind of question but we ask “what do users need” then go from that.


Once you have your “Why” what happens next in a reponsive web UX project?

Once you have your “why” what happens next in a mobile app UX project?


What happens when you get your “What do you users need” in your responsive web UX project

What happens when you get your “What do you users need” in your mobile app UX project?


Let’s say they do need mobile app…

How will the UX process differ between building a mobile app vs a responsive website?


I refer you to my blog post which references some of the points you make


Thanks @lordmolesbury Im not asking whether either is NEEDED. I am talking about the ux process involved for responsive and the ux process involved with a mobile app - they can be different products altogether that have answered the necessity question already
Good blog post btw, i enjoyed it.


There is absolutely no difference whatsoever in the approach. Use the same UCD for both.


I can see some minor difference between user research for a native app and user research for a mobile web app.

In case of a native app you may need to explore:

  • users’ familiarity and experience with device-specific hand gestures
  • offline usage

In case of a mobile website you may need to explore:

  • whether users are ok with typing the site address in their browser each time they need to interact with the site
  • do they know about bookmarking a site to home screen
  • will users agree to approve using such functions like geolocation by their browser




I think “Do they need an app?” is kind of a child question of “Does the user need an app?”. Which gets tricky with the usual friction between stakeholder wants and user needs/wants.

Strangely, I’m not a big app person. I bought an extra storage for my phone, but it’s constantly running on almost full. I have to delete stuff to DL another app, so it’s gotta be something that’s really valuable to me beyond the normal website. I also tend to keep all of my daily viewing in tabs in my browser and just cycle through those in one place instead of opening and closing a sequence of apps on my commute. I don’t know if anyone else does this. I could be an outlier.

There can be very different philosophical approaches to what tasks the user is directed to on a website vs an app. One sharing community I visit multiple times a day has really different experiences between site and app. I bookmarked my profile on the site, because as a content creator, managing my content and communications are my most important task. The app pushes other users’ content at me as a priority. I also upload content from my computer, not my phone. So this app got deleted to make room for something else while I’m on their mobile site often 3 or 4 times a day. I suspect that they chose to service users browsing and pushing promotions on the app instead of personal content management. That was probably wise.

Login and security is also a consideration. I can’t even login to my account on my Chinese bank’s website. I’m really curious about their UX decisions there, but it probably relates to a culture that is heavily motivated/regulated by fear. (A few years ago, some banks made you confirm any online transaction or purchase by replying to a notification on… a pager. A British colleague had 3 pagers for 3 bank accounts.) My balance is buried several layers deep in my Chinese bank app and behind a second identity verification. I hate it. However investment information is displayed upon opening the app. There’s another UX decision probably coming from an obsession with checking financial risk. (Hanging out at the lotto office watching dozens of results roll in every evening is a thing.)

So, what “they need” is probably tied to whether they intend to provide the same or different services on a website and app AND if users want both or a different sort of portal than what the site already does.


I don’t think the question “do they need an app” is childish. Moreover, I believe this is the question to ask the target audience. You just said that you would prefer a site due to storage reasons and other. Many users would probably say the same. Although, it depends.
To me, it is a great question to ask users.


I think @ref_design meant that the question is a child (or related question) of Does the user need an app? – not that the question is childish. :slight_smile: