When I say…
we need to think about publishing content that people want while adapting the display of that content according to the abilities of the person’s device.
…I do not mean we need to adjust the layout of existing desktop sites for other devices. Quite the opposite. I mean we need to stop building desktop-specific sites.
I think there’s a misconception that responsive web design is a “get out of jail free” card: instead of designing for different devices, all you have to do is reflow your existing pages so that they fit fine on any screen, right?
If you have a desktop-specific site—and, let’s face it, that covers over 90% of the web—the first step is to replace it with a device-agnostic site. Not mobile-specific, not desktop-specific, not tablet-specific, but centred instead around the person visiting the site and the content that they want.
That’s what I meant when I said:
Most of the time, creating a separate mobile website is simply a cop-out.
It’s an acknowledgement that the existing desktop-specific site is too bloated and crufty.
Luke’s idea of Mobile First is a good thought exercise to start designing from the content out, but the name is a little misleading. It could just as easily be Print First or Any-Device-Other-Than-The-Desktop First.
Here’s what I’m getting at: we act as though mobile is a new problem, and that designing for older devices—like desktop and laptop computers—is a solved problem. I’m saying that the way we’ve been designing for the desktop is fundamentally flawed. Yes, mobile is a whole new domain, but what it really does is show just how bad our problem-solving has been up ‘till now.