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One Screen Too Many (Part Two)

Laptop, Tablet, Smartphone


Part one of this story can be found here.

In my previous post I highlighted the vast increase in the multi-screen world, and the importance of mobile going forward. So, in a world of smartphones of varying sizes, tablets, small and large laptops, desktops, games consoles... how did the digital design industry handle itself in those first few years?

In truth, in a bit of a haphazard fashion.

Many web designers and developers focused on the core audience they had grown up with: desktop and laptop computers. They continued building microsites and full websites, using flash, fancy effects; giving little or no heed to the new audience browsing on the bus.

Media planners still booked 728x90 flash banners on their favourite websites, everyone still wanted a ‘wow’ homepage, microsites were still used for campaign work. Perhaps it was a case of the mobile browser audience being too much in its infancy to change the digital industry.

Others thought differently. Two new routes emerged.

On one side the app market ballooned. Led (and controlled) by Apple with their iPhone (in those pre-Android and Samsung days). Almost everyone wanted an app. Got a website, get an app too. But I always felt apps should be small simple things, to serve one function, like Google Maps or the excellent Tunein radio app, or apps built on data like Facebook. Yet there they were, websites devolved into apps. And the most obvious question: well, if you have had to build an app for your website, does this mean your normal website sucks on a smartphone? What happens if I type in your URL in here.... www oh?

The other route tried to answer that very question. Rather than an app, the industry created mini versions of websites. These were the simpler relatives of a website, cause “Hey, who needs the full website experience on a phone?” Functionality was stripped down; design was based on chunky blocks for chunky fingers. But that always felt a little too easy to me. If as expected, there will be more browsing done on mobile devices than desktops, why have the mobile as the simple option? And why the disconnect between the full site and the mobile? Where’s the holistic approach?

I should flag that I’ve had this discussion with many in my industry and there are those who are convinced that the micro mobile option is still valid. Perhaps they’re right. But then there’s the devices... sure a mobile site works on a smartphone, but it doesn’t do a great deal for tablets that sit somewhere between traditional computers and smartphones. What about them?

I was introduced to Responsive Design several months ago. It was like a light had been switched on. I was shown a solution; an imperfect one of course, but something better than what we had.

Responsive Design sounds very cool, but what does it actually mean?

Share your thoughts and I’ll pick this up in my next post.

Stephen Williams, Senior Digital Producer






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