The Limits of Responsive Design
It is no surprise that we currently live in a multi-screen world but did you know that the majority of the European website hasn’t been optimized for the normal screen (yes, mobile first sweet marketeers)? This is a sad development because the right solution is within hand’s reach: responsive design.
As you all may know already, responsive design is a way to get your website suitable for all screens and devices. I can say from my experience as front-end designer that this sounds easier than it actually is. Creating the perfect responsive design is a real challenge. Especially to adapt it for every device and screen without disabling major parts of the content.
I already spoke twice about “every device and screen”. A dangerous statement, because which ones are currently included? Although a lot of companies still don’t see the importance of responsive design, I start asking myself the next question: What do we need to do with wearables?
What about responsive design for smartwatches?
When mobile phones and WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) entered the market, nobody could really predict whether a mobile device would be used for browsing the web or not. We thought people would use their phones on the fly, quickly checking an email. Boy, were we wrong. Even Google confirms this in their yearly report.
But how will we use the next generation of devices? At the moment, people use smart watches and other wearables as an extension of their smartphone. Although product development is still in a early stage and the market is in its infancy, I believe we need to decide what to do with wearables.
We are able to create apps for those wearable devices, but what will the future bring? Does a user expect to look up information on her wrist? In the early days of mobile phones, we started with screen sizes of 320×240 but the current state shows us models which don’t fit our handbag or skinny jeans.
How can we offer a website on such small screen sizes? Is it possible to fit this type of content at the size of your wrist and is responsive design the true future-proof solution? I am not the only one asking these kind of questions. Take a look at this screendump of the CSS Tricks website.
To bring down a web design from desktop to smartphone size is not easy. Resizing it to a wearable screen size is a real challenge. The restrictions of phone screens are childsplay compared to the interface and behavior of a wearable. And do I want to visit a website with my smartwatch?
Dutch website Nu.nl developed their app for the Sony smartwatch and the Youtube video of this watch also shows us that it contains a browser app. So there will be a chance that people will visit your website with their watch.
Can we succeed in supporting all screens and devices by adding some breakpoints through responsive design? Or can we compare the life cycle of the wearable with the smartphone? It started with apps… we made some attempts with separate mobile websites and then finally we focused on responsive design. In my opinion responsive design will certainly have some restrictions.
The near future will bring us new screens and devices which need their own solutions. Let’s keep responsive design for the tremendous amount of screen resolutions, android versions and browser types… This will keep us busy all right.