Responsive websites / Mobile websites
Are you targeting all the audience?
A vast proportion of web traffic comes now, not from desktops, laptops, or even tablets, but from our ubiquitous mobile phones, and this is something that all web site owners and web designers need to take into account for at least two reasons.
- A website that is viewed from any device with a small screen, will provide a different and possibly inferior experience for the user. In order for a such a user to view the content, the user may need to scroll excessively, may view buttons that need to be zoomed before they can be used, and the images may not fit on the devices screen in full.
- Search engines may discriminate against sites that are mobile un-friendly. This can impact your search engine performance. You might be ranked below websites that Google considers to be mobile friendlier. In short this policy descriminates against sites that require excessive scrolling or zooming, as would be the case on a traditional site viewed from a device with a small screen.
This has led to the growth of sites that are mobile friendly. They require less scrolling, less zooming, and are generally easier to use on a mobile device.
Responsive websites work in various ways
- The content is responsive to the width of the screen. As the screen reduces in size (either because the user resizes it, or because the page is viewed on a narrower screen) the content that is displayed moves, or shrinks or enlarges.
- Content may disappear altogether if it is deemed that the device and the user it implies does not need it.
- Content may paradoxically increase in size as the screen shinks in size. Text may need to be enlarged on devices with smaller and smaller devices just so it can be read.
All responsive websites are not created equal
- Websites are often produced with a website generator. The user logs in, is presented with a series of forms, the forms are edited, a button is pressed and a website is produced. If the user selected the responsive option, what is produced is a basic, generic website and unlikely to address all usability issues. For example, such sites often present poor choices for fonts and font sizes. The version viewed on a 27 inch monitor dislpays text far too large for comfort, and the site seems somehow dumbed down, and lacking in content and substance. The version viewed on a tiny screen may make poor choices about content placement, and fail to convey the key messages.
- To produce a truly responsive site, the developer must in effect produce a number of different sites for each screen resolution (though presented on the same screen). This is more work.
- The extra work needs to be extensively tested, and this may be challenging
- As the content presented may change on different devices, it is just possible that the content available on a particular device may be inappropriate, or indequate. A editorial decision may not necessarily be the correct one, based on demographical information. A good responsive site may need very careful research prior to implementation.
An example of a responsive web site
The used machine tools website at www.used-machine-tools.co.uk shows an example of a responsive site. What makes it interesting is that it has fluid content and menuing, that is different at each screen resolution to which it responds. Try reducing the size of the browser and watch as the menuing system and contents adapts.
Where is web technology going next?
The future role of the mobile phone cannot be overestimated
The mobile phone is rapidly filling every computing role, and is hampered only by the size of the screen. As such any technology or development that overcomes issues with screen size will attract resource and investment. If a mobile phone's graphic display can be sent directly to the retina of the phones user, the power of the phone and all its applications will be substantially enhanced.
Autonomous agents are a fascinating development in computing
These agents (or daemons as they are sometimes called) Are created on our computers and exist as simple examples of artificial life. They might tirelessly search the web for our next job, bargain, or life partner.