Some of us may remember the time when designing for the web meant to overcome all sorts of restrictions (raise your hand if you ever dialed up to the internet). The very limited download speed meant you needed to be prudent on each page to make sure that the size didn’t go over the ghastly size of 100k. You only included what specifically needed to be there. No frills or extra material.
Since then we have come a long way. Download speeds are no longer an issue. Browsers and standard languages have amazing possibilities. Our websites can include basically anything that we want. As a result you’ll find many websites that are bloated, overwhelming and lack design. When the restrictions are removed the need for elegant design and implementation is not as pressing.
Enter mobile. For a while mobile has been kind of the rut of the litter. An afterthought for many companies in their web design. But now it is gaining traction. With the advent of really smart phones and tablets small devices have become the primary source of web traffic for many sites.
So we have restrictions again. Restrictions in size, in download speed, in the browsers. And the result: Many mobile websites are now better than their web counterparts simply because they are more focused.
They do fewer things and they do them well.
The most important (on the go) things. They don’t try to do everything there is.
This is the crux of the matter when we talk about designing mobile first. It forces us to think within the restrictions. Which is good, it makes our design better and more focused. The great thing about this approach is that it makes everyone discuss what is most important and relevant because for the restricted platform we only want to include those.
It should not however, use mobile to create a lowest common denominator website that is the same across mediums save a few css tricks.
Think about the how to represent the functionality and information that you want to present. What are the goals you want your users to reach? What are your goals? There maybe a difference in the answer depending on the medium. Then design for the medium, let it work with you to reach these goals.