I recently put together a little demo for our client services team, taking them through the various design techniques used to make websites more versatile and multi-screen friendly. Responsive. Fluid. Adaptive. These have all become buzzwords, bandied around half the time by people who don’t really have the foggiest what they mean.
But that’s a whole ‘nother blog.
What I want to write about today is the idea of ‘future-proofing’. After the demo, one of our account directors asked me a question. “Correct me if I’m wrong,” she said, “but surely if we want to future proof a site for our clients we should always simply default recommending a responsive site?”
Well, no. Aside from the fact that, despite being a great technology, responsive is not the cure-all panacea for the multi-screen world that a lot of people seem to think it is (depending on what you’re trying to achieve, native apps, m sites and, yes, combinations of various design techniques, could do a better job), there is the stark fact that it is simply impossible to ‘future proof’ a website.
At the Google I/O a couple of weeks ago, one of the most popular sessions was ‘developing for Glass‘ – where geeks could find out how to start developing for the wearable, heads-up web interface. This is a whole new kind of internet experience. Forget multi-screen – this is about delivering a layer of information that sits between you and reality. And of course, this information will be ‘the internet’ and for you to control the information that people using this technology see about your brand, you will need to be in this space. And responsive design seems positively archaic in that light.
Google Glass is of course just one more consideration in what it often called the distributed/decentralised web and the fully portable web – the idea that your content sits not only on your website, but nowadays needs to also be distributed across lots of other properties, because users like to consume information in an environment of their choosing, not yours – e.g. Flipboard, LinkedIn Today, RSS readers, Facebook et al and on a device of their choosing – smart TV screens (alongside TV shows) and a multitude of screen sizes and aspect ratios from tablets to very, very small screens equipped with Opera mini.
In this world, the focus is not on trying to shoehorn your website into every possible screen size out there, but rather to start by thinking about your content and then the environments in which it will be consumed, and the context it will be consumed in – and then create the right web properties to talk to that need.
Responsive might be a short-term short cut (and it may well be the right choice for your company right now!) but it certainly doesn’t future proof anything.
Richard Parker is head of strategy at content marketing agency Edge, where he works with brands including Woolworths, St George and Foxtel.