Today’s internet comes in all shapes and sizes. There are sites optimized for desktops, tablets, phones and even videogame systems. Since web experiences have evolved beyond the confines of conventional computing, the challenge has been to effectively deliver content on new platforms.
Mobile devices are the fastest growing platform for web browsing. In fact, mobile web access is expected to surpass desktop-based browsing in three to five years. The rapid growth expectations have translated into a brighter spotlight on mobile development with various trends and philosophies emerging to shape its future.
Responsive design has been embraced for its broad applicability to the evolving internet landscape. It has already been partially implemented by the British Broadcasting Corporation in their revamped online strategy. Since mobile phones are not the only new gateways to the internet, responsive design is a holistic approach designed to meet the needs of not just mobile phones, but each individual device used to access a website.
The universal approach reaches beyond the current practice of having separate sites for different types of devices, and provides a website tailored to a specific set of criteria. BBC Head of Product Chris Russell envisions responsive design working as such, “you come to our website, we do the hard work and ask your device all those tricky questions, before delivering a page in the best shape and size, with the most features that your device can support.”
What are those tricky questions the BBC will ask? The website will be tailored to connection speed, location, screen size, software and browser capability. Tailoring the website will prevent slow experiences with high-def video on a weak wireless signal, while avoiding a bare, text-only experience on stronger networks. All in all, it offers an experience that strives to be as content-rich as possible while maintaining simplicity and ease-of-use to ensure maximum functionality.
The desktop site offers an engaging, colorful landscape that takes advantage of screen size and connection strength. Also, even though I typed in the mobile address (m.bbc.co.uk), the BBC recognized my desktop computer and redirected me to the main website.
The mobile service is content-rich, with images and informative text, yet remains accessible and easy to use. It accommodates the smaller screen of a smart phone and avoids side-to-side scrolling. My phone was redirected here from the main BBC news site.
The BBC’s implementation of responsive design is still in its infancy, but its mobile and desktop sites exhibit differences in layout, content and usability. They acquiesce to the strengths and limitations of each device and are indicative of future sites built with responsive design.
For further reading on the BBC’s adoption of responsive design, click here.