Cue iconic Ennio Morricone film score. Cue tumbleweed blowing through some agencies. Cue the arrival of a responsive stranger signalling a shift in the way things are done around here.

The arrival of responsive web design and the increase in mobile web traffic presents agencies and clients alike with the opportunity to consider delivering layouts and content designed specifically for the device being used to access their website or application.

The good

In June 2011 13% of all web traffic in the UK was of mobile origin. The increase in mobile web traffic along with the number of devices capable of connecting to the web, estimates vary wildly between 15 and 35 billion, suggest the arrival of this responsive stranger has come not a moment to soon.

Adopting a responsive approach, providing identical content but delivering a design specifically built for a smartphone or tablet will undoubtedly improve a users experience of a website or web application.

The bad

Some websites out there are just plain not ready for this responsive strangers arrival. They continue to deliver a homespun desktop solution to these new fangled mobile devices or just as bad, try and second-guess what a user is interested in when, visiting their website, using a new fangled mobile device.

In other words they are falling in to the mobile context bear trap – ok – there’s no bear trap in the mobile context. I added that for dramatic effect.

So what is the mobile context? The answer used to be clear, but its not anymore. The mobile user used to be always on the go; trying to consume location related and task-oriented content very quickly. The problem is that this is not necessarily the case now. Phones are getting more and more capable and the browsing experience on many of them can be downright enjoyable.

Where are people using mobile devices?

  • 84% at home
  • 80% during miscellaneous downtime throughout the day
  • 76% waiting in lines or waiting for appointments
  • 69% while shopping
  • 64% at work
  • 62% while watching TV (alt. study claims 84%)
  • 47% during commute in to work

The responsive

We’ve witnessed the good and understand the bad but what’s this responsive strangers proposition that means we’ll all get the happy Hollywood ending we want so badly? Fortunately there’s nothing ugly in the responsive – quite the opposite.

The responsive stranger’s approach is device agnostic, functioning on smartphones and tablets – without the need to design separate websites or proprietary apps for different devices.

A single code base, another benefit of adopting a responsive approach, has advantages for both clients and agencies. The single code base gives us tighter control over branding and more efficient maintenance and redesigns.

This responsive stranger is not without its issues. The production of alternative layouts for different devices will mean revised workflows and processes. These revised workflows and processes will eventually bring to an end separate desktop and mobile development cycles.

The look and feel of a design will be agreed upon for a single device and move quickly to prototyping using the agreed design to influence the look and feel of layouts on other devices, meaning a fair proportion of the design will be done in the browser.

And in the world of the web – that’s about as much of a happy ending as we can hope for.

So long…

Until next time…

Reference:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ennio_Morricone

http://www.tecmark.co.uk/uk-mobile-stats-2011

http://www.abookapart.com/products/responsive-web-design

http://timkadlec.com/2011/03/responsive-web-design-and-mobile-context/

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