Throughout the history of the internet, there have been distinct times that mark significant change to the way the technology is used or to the technology itself. Remember when Netscape was the browser of choice? Seemingly overnight, Internet Explorer knocked Netscape off its throne forever. Remember a time before Facebook? Remember Myspace? The internet is constantly evolving with changes to the applications we use as internet consumers as well as the technologies that lie beneath.
We find ourselves at another such time, a time we may look back on as the time that mobile began to dominate the way we present information on the web. More than 30% off all internet traffic is now considered mobile including smartphones and tablet devices and this is forcing a change to how website owners present their information. The traditional desktop website is no longer adequate in providing a pleasing user experience to all viewers. While these sites do in fact display on smaller screens, they can be difficult to read and navigate.
As luck would have it, there are now several new technologies and design techniques, supported on most current browsers, that allow us to address this proliferation of mobile visitors:
HTML5 and CSS3 are the latest standards developed by W3C (standards body for web stuff). And while these standards have not been fully ratified, there is enough support among all current browsers for us to start using them. There are many goodies in these new standards for web designers that allow us to develop faster and more vibrant websites. By reducing or eliminating the need for external graphics in many cases, we can create websites that are much faster to load on mobile devices that may have limitations on bandwidth.
Responsive Web Design
This is the big change that will be looked back on as a turning point in the world of website design. Simply put, Responsive Web Design (RWD) allows a website to adapt to whatever viewing platform it is being rendered on. Whether the site is being viewed on a 50 inch HDTV down to an Iphone 3 (I know, what a fossil!), the website will magically transform itself so the information is presented in a user friendly way, eliminating the need for zooming and side scrolling on mobile devices all while taking advantage of the larger screen space on big monitors.
This is made possible only by the support of HTML5 and CSS3. As I mentioned, there are some goodies in these new standards that allow us to do some really cool things to make this possible. While some of the older browsers may not support these things (like older versions of IE, seriously, time to upgrade!), that’s OK. We can design our sites to handle this, while taking advantage of the newer stuff in the more advanced browsers. And guess what? All the mobile browsers support these new cool things! So we know when the site is viewed on a smartphone or tablet, we can take full advantage of these new features.
So we can see that this is an era where many different forces are combining to change the way we design and view websites. HTML5, CSS3, mobile devices and Responsive Web Design and now teaming up to bring you the next generation of websites!