I don’t want to rehash this very excellent article, but I do want to riff on it a bit.
Responsive design, in its current state, is merely the shuffling of content–often poorly–to accommodate various screen dimensions. Not really complaining here, it’s a major improvement over past accommodations for mobile devices.
Responsive Design is More Than Screen Size
However, responsive design as a serious discipline is about to get much more complex as the Internet of Things becomes…well…a real thing.
It will no longer be enough to rearrange your content to make it readable on a computer monitor, a tablet, or a smartphone. After all, which dimension would you pick to render on:
- an iWatch where I’m trying to manage my marathon training by tracking my splits and navigating a new route, or
- my refrigerator when I want to restock my milk and eggs from the grocery store’s online ordering form or just want to update my shopping list in ,y favorite TODO app, or
- my car dashboard where I am getting turn-by-turn directions to my next appointment and at the same time want to send a text message to my client telling them current traffic is going to make me about five behind schedule.
Today, all of this kind of innovation requires pseudo responsive design. More often than not it requires custom, often proprietary, and discrete device application development, which is MacGyver’d into the Internet with some wire and pocket lint.
Ironically, despite the custom development it rarely delivers a more relevant user experience. It often just repackages (usually in a bad way) the content taken from the primary website or application.
Responsive Design is Interactive Design
Responsive design should be evolving into a much larger concept. It needs to go beyond dynamic screen resizing and become the intelligent development of dynamic user experiences, supporting any device that needs the content.
Here’s the simplest of examples:
If I come to your website on a mobile phone I probably don’t want to browse your case studies.
It’s far more likely that I want to get your address or phone number.
So, instead of just squeezing and slightly rearranging your content, how about leading with your phone number, email address, and location with all the appropriate semantic and microformat markup. This way I don’t have to scroll your page to find this info in the footer or worse try to click over to your contact us page.
This approach enables the user to do what they are most likely trying to do–contact you on their mobile device.
Secret to Better Responsive Design
I think the secret to making responsive design better lies in better and maturing use of semantic markup in our web development and content management systems. Then we can let the things, that make up the Internet of the future responsively serve our content in a user-enabling way.