Mobile First, or, as I like to think of it: Layer cake
If websites were cakes, we would all like ours to be a multi-tiered confection with rich filling and intricate icing. But if you can’t have that, a simple, well-made sheet cake is still pretty darn good!
How do you ensure cake for everyone? Simple. Start with the bottom layer and work your way up. Focus on your most crucial content and functionality, stripped of all extraneous embellishments for your mobile users—that’s layer one. Then add on successive layers of rich content and interactivity for tablet and desktop users. Now you’ve got a tasty experience for everyone!
But wait! There’s more!
Thanks to our handy friend the media query tag, we have other options beyond Mobile First and graceful degradation as well. You can now deliver content that is specifically customized to the user’s device. Whole layouts can shift and flow, images can be specifically sized, all based on how they are being viewed. This is called Responsive Design, the new darling of the dev world. Additionally, emerging technologies like JQuery and CSS3 allow us to introduce motion to our sites without losing audiences on devices that don’t support Flash. And hey, did you know mobile even offers up cool features a desktop could never match? Geo location, anyone?
I'm a multi-disciplinary designer-strategist at HP. My passion is whole product design: the seamless integration of HW+SW+Web to deliver compelling experiences to users. I'm currently swimming upstream to bring Web 2.0-style community participation to HP's consumer printing business.