Interviewed for Responsive Design for Web Apps

I was recently interviewed for an article on addressing multi-device strategies of web apps for Smartbear Software’s blog. Specifically, responsive design and how it can help deliver an app to the largest possible market. It’s a nice piece but I would like to further clarify my statements.

Article: Making Mobile Applications Alternate-Device Aware

According to Mike Donahue, a Web/UX Designer for Jarden Consumer Solutions, based in Boca Raton, Florida, there are something like 4,000 different screen resolutions in use on devices today.

To be clear here, this was based on the Q4 2012 analytics of a single, high traffic site that I worked on. This is not necessarily a reality that everyone will have to deal with but it could be for some and is important to consider when deciding how to approach a mobile strategy. Hopefully it drives home the futility of trying to strive for pixel perfect layouts and motivates people to adopt more fluid design patterns.

What is worse, he says, is that none of those screen resolutions are dominant, either in terms of categories, or in terms of devices within categories. “There is no major player,” he says. “The biggest market share is something like 11% or 12%. It’s not like the old days when Internet Explorer in various versions had 60% to 80% of the market share.”

Again, these are not global numbers but those of a single site that may or may not reflect others realities. The salient point here is that with a lack of a true majority ideas like common layout sizes and “the fold” become increasingly less meaningful. It will force many to finally embrace the true nature of web which is fluid and use responsive/adaptive techniques to reach a significant audience share. For those not yet familiar with responsive, it can also have the happy side effects of improved accessibility, SEO and page rank on search engines.

I’m in agreement with the others cited in the article regarding the notion that it’s become increasingly important to separate presentation from the data and business logic of a site. Moving forward our content will be accessed by an ever growing number of devices of indeterminate capabilities and sizes. The sooner we break those ties the better.

An extreme version is “Mobile-First Design.”

I don’t consider mobile first an extreme version of responsive but the most practical way to approach web design in general these days. The paragraph does go on to further explain my view but I just wanted to set that straight.

Overall I like what Rick has written. The only comment I’d make regarding the others quoted in the article would be to build on what Mary Brittain-White said;

“I believe strongly that apps for people who use mobile apps for their daily work, where the app is used constantly, need apps that are written to reflect their work flow,” and “In mobile it’s all about the end user,”

I like the sentiment behind both statements but personally would encourage everyone not to confine them to just mobile. These statements ring true regardless of screen size or any other contraints. User research is the only way to determine what your audience truly wants and needs. To paraphrase a frequently seen bumper sticker,

Know Users, Know Success. No Users [research], No Success.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to share these ideas beyond my own world. This was the first of hopefully many such opportunities.

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Mike Donahue

Just a guy that's passionate about creating useful, usable and desirable experiences for all humans. I love nature and wildlife photography, it's my source of artistic expression and inner peace. I live and play in South Florida with my wife Nikki and our girls (dogs) Layla and Cassidy.

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