Responsive design is still in its infancy and, as Dennis Odell argues, technologies in the pipeline are set to open up a raft of game-changing possibilities
This article first appeared in issue 236 of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.
These are exciting times to be a web dev. Regular browser updates deliver improved web standards support, meaning we can build better user interfaces for our site visitors. As web technology evolves, new site build techniques, such as RWD, are made possible. The ‘one site fits all’ technique uses CSS media queries to adapt our page design to the user’s browser. They also get a single URL for bookmarking both mobile and desktop versions of the same site.
The proliferation of mobile devices with sensors capable of geolocation and motion detection suggest a future wave of sites whose designs adapt to real-world environments. Imagine being able to increase font sizes and button target areas if the motion sensor suggests the user is browsing while walking or running. We might consider adapting our layout based on our visitor’s geographic region or on ambient light or sound levels.
If we want to build sites that are truly responsive to users’ needs, we must separate our user interface from our site’s underlying services and data. This frees us up to tailor interfaces to different types of device. We have an exciting opportunity to use a voice server with VoiceXML markup, allowing the public to use their phones to dial into our site using only voice commands. This would bring about a paradigm shift in accessibility, allowing site access without the prerequisite of an internet connection or the usual computer literacy skills.
The ultimate goal of responsive design is to provide a site that adapts to users regardless of browser, device or abilities. We can progress this ‘one site fits all’ idea by continually evolving web standards, and addressing users’ needs more personally as we do so.
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