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Responsive design is not just about tablets and phones

The world of mobile isn’t stopping at 5″ phones and 10″ tablets. Coming down the track (and sooner than you think) are a whole tranche of next generation devices and technology. These will forever change the view of the traditional browser.

  • Smart watches: Devices that relay your information and content onto a screen 20 characters wide and 6 lines deep. With one to four action buttons (up, down, ok and back). The $90 Pebble is already out and lots of rumours about an Apple device appearing next year.
  • Glasses: Uses icons, colours, movement and voice to operate. Imagine trying to reach your business via your website using voice and gestures alone! Google already have the $1500 Google Glass but it’s expected the retail version will cost less than £150
  • Browser-only: Mozilla (Firefox) is the first of many to produce a pure browser phone, no apps, just HTML5.
  • Internet of things: If you believe the hype there will be more non-human than human connected devices on the Internet by the end of 2013. How will your digital services communicate with these devices?
  • Accelerometers: Movement will define actions and content delivery. Already used heavily in smart phones apps, the use is spreading to delivering digital services over conventional browser interfaces.
  • Gesture: Not just hands but facial expressions will control devices. Swiping your hand over a Samsung Galaxy 4 makes it do things such as scroll, answer the phone and move stuff around. Contactless interaction might sound like something from Minority report but its been around for a while and here to stay.
  • Voice: Apple’s Siri and Google’s Now already do this in closed environments – this will open out to standard digital services quicker than you think.
  • GPS and proximity: The user’s proximity to a location or just a physical location is already driving search on some sites. Start thinking how to tailor content based on where the user is in relation to other key touch points and their physical location.
  • Contextuality: To be truly responsive, you understand the users’ behaviour in all dimensions. What have they done before, what are they doing now and what should/could/might they be doing next. This quasi-predictive world, again, already exists within some digital services (Google Now). How you integrate that into your digital offering is just another challenge to be faced.

This is the tip of the iceberg, each area will start to see killer applications as the technology develops.

What does this really mean for folks in charge of delivering digital services? There are three approaches you can take; one involves a crystal ball and a huge development budget to create digital services now to meet every need that might appear in the next 3 years. The second approach is to build a strategy that is tactical and only deals with the immediate needs and gets junked when the next technology gains traction. Or.

The third method is to build your digital services into an open framework (such as VNX). Using a digital services framework gives you a method to plugin new technologies as and when they appear, without having to do the development yourself. A good framework is built around an open-source platform (VNX uses LINUX, Apache and WordPress 3.5) to encourage adoption and community development. The largest and most successful open-source community in the world today is WordPress and is the one most likely (at the moment) to be able to handle emerging technologies. If WordPress falls by the wayside, then you should be able to migrate to a more powerful core without the traditional costs of a complete re-development of all your digital services.