Mobile is not iPhone or iPad or N8. It's not Bada or Symbian or WebOS. Mobile is not Opera Mini, or Skyfire or Netfront. Mobile is not sliders or clamshells, QWERTY or 12-key. Mobile is not touch, or multi-touch. Mobile is not Foursquare, or Facebook, or MySpace. Mobile is not Twitter. Mobile is not MMS, or BBM, or SMS. Mobile is not resolution or GPS, or front-facing-cameras. Mobile is not CDMA or GMRS, WiMax or LTE.
Mobile is not successful due to amazing marketing, or great pricing, or because it's fashionable. It's not even successful because it offers new capabilities to everyone, although it also does that.
Mobile is an unspeakable success because it lets people be people. As obvious as it seems, we're no longer tethered to wireline phones, or movie theaters and TVs, or pinball arcades, or typewriters, photocopiers and desktop computers.
Mobile works because it lets people work the way they want to, and the way they always have. Mobile lets people be mobile, and read what they want, and watch what they want, and take photos of their vacation, and share their thoughts with their friends, their family or no one in particular.
Designing for mobile – and I say now designing for anything – is an exercise in designing for people. Sure, it's always been a great idea to consider users; but not just how they interact with a machine, or a website. If you step back and look at the way people really work, and want to work (or play, or share, or create...) then you are on the right track.
Whether the product that comes out of this is (or works on) a large chunk of iron, a wheeled vehicle, a desktop computer, a website or a mobile handset – or many of the above all at once, is of no particular significance. When you consider people, and their context, and address it right, that is what I consider designing with a mobile mindset.
Certainly do not get locked in and decide before anything else to design a desktop website, but also don't design for mobile first. Design for people first.
I think this will be my position at 5pm on 21 September when I talk about "Why and when to design for mobile first" with Scott Jenson, Barbara Ballard, Luke Wroblewski, and Alan Tifford at Design for Mobile 2010. Come see us and join in.