Mobile phone usage has seen a steep increase for some time now and is predicted to go up. Internet usage for mobile apps overtook desktop users long back. This was a game-changer for digital design. The website owners and designers are still trying to catch up. The desktop design strategies they had perfected in a few years have become a secondary skill and the power has been shifted to those who understand mobile website and app strategies. Speaking of designers and entrepreneurs, online survival is based on understanding the differences between desktop and mobile app design and also on identifying how to utilise both of them in the best possible way. Both the designers and entrepreneurs depend mostly on understanding the differences between both the mobile and desktop app design. They would also know how to make the best use of both. 

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Difference between desktop and mobile app design

Large Screen Size – Desktop

It provides a lot of opportunities to add more stuff. The screen size would affect all aspects of design especially when it comes to navigation. Desktop apps that support fix and navigation were while mobile makes use of pull-out menus. This can be effective for discoverability as users might find new sections in the previously were unaware of. 

Small Screen Size – Mobile

Mobile apps should conserve screen space wherever possible. Hence, you should be aware of the elements that are important enough to show. Two interesting trends that came up from this minimalism and Hamburger menu. Both of them were successful and this feature was implemented into the desktop design too where they turned out to be stylish choices and not necessities.  

Interaction on Desktop – Cursors

Desktop apps use cursor interactivity for various things like cursor-triggered animations and also hover text. This would allow the desktop apps to feature the screen filled with pictures and descriptive text appearing only when the user hovers.

Interaction on Mobile – Gestures

You are not able to roll over or hover on mobile apps but you could use various gestures like swiping, shaking, poking and so on. This brings in a lot of opportunities for apps. 

Organising content on desktop – Columns

Any content on a desktop might appear in traditional multi-column format. This would look like the print content you would see in newspapers and magazines. This would provide a lot of flexibility for designing layouts and in positioning images, texts and UI elements. 

Organising content on mobile – Scrolling

Once the content reaches a particular length, mobile apps should have the scrolling feature. Mobile users prefer to scroll continuously. This technique conserves screen space as you interact with the help of gestures. Like minimalistic and hamburger menus, young’s calling could be another mobile design trend that has been transferred over to desktop due to its high popularity.

Portrait and Landscape modes – Mobile

This is a unique feature that can be enjoyed by mobile users. Unlike desktop screens, mobile apps could switch between portrait and landscape modes. For website owners and designers, this is a blessing and a curse at the same time. Two screen orientation could allow in better user personalization and more functionality but it would require twice the design work. 

Functionality in desktop – Big Tasks

The users would make use of desktop apps for longer and more involved tasks. One reason for this can be that the mobile screens would limit the number of functions that could be done once. Mobile would work for short and quick tasks that might come up at the moment. When there are longer tasks to complete, the users prefer to use desktop apps where you could utilise more functions, features and content.

Functionality in mobile – Experimental

What mobile phone lacks in functionality, it would make up with ingenuity. Mobile design helms the technology and offers various extra features that the desktop will not be able to do. Some of them are augmented reality, virtual reality, accelerometers and gyro sensors, multiple cameras, mobile contact lists and magnetic sensors. 

Best practices for mobile vs desktop app design

Take a look at some of the best practices you could do for optimising the designs of mobile as well as desktop app design.

  • Take care of mobile-first 

If you are planning on creating an app for both desktop and mobile, begin with the mobile version first. It is easier to add elements for smaller screens than to remove elements. Going desktop first might involve more backtracking. 

  • Give priority to different elements

Mobile screens would have a home only for significant parts of your design. You should know the important design elements and prioritise them from most important to least. This could become helpful when you decide which elements get the screen locations and which of them are hidden in the hamburger menu.

  • Working with columns

Desktop apps allow multi-column format. It has various options such as navigation menus, ads, and sidebars for widgets. It won’t work on mobile devices where a centralised single column is best. You could organise the app content vertically. Put the images above or below the text but not next to it. 

  • Make use of Mobile’s Benefits

There is a difference between designing for mobile and making a desktop app for a mobile device. You could use the fun stuff you could do with mobile and this includes adding inventing gesture controls and special sensors. They help in improving the usability of mobile apps and make them more fun to use.

  • Remember about mentality

One of the greatest differences between mobile and desktop is the user’s state of mind. You can perform tasks on mobile apps quickly. If someone is trying to use an app, provide glances and keep the user engaged even though there are distractions. Keeping complex tasks on the desktop is what most people usually do. 

  • Apps should be allies

Desktop and mobile are rivals but the truth is that most of the time users make use of both devices