David Walker | 19 February 2013
For the last decade web UI development has been a medium for desktops and laptops. Bandwidth and monitor resolutions fitted within a set tolerance and users interacted through mouse and keyboard. With this rise of handheld devices the rules of web design and development needs to change.
Day by day the number of devices, platforms and browsers
you need to work with grow. Websites need to be revaluated and need
to target and support mobile users and the emerging responsive
paradigm is a seismic shift in application development that will
change the face of web development for decades to come.
A mistake often made is the rush for a company to develop a mobile app without understanding what they are trying to achieve. In the all too common situation where an informational presentation of data that could be found on the corporate website is embedded in an app rather than web site being redesigned to present the information you want your clients to receive independent of device. This is why responsive web development is so important now and in the future and how HTML5 will become the most important shift in the way we build web applications in over a decade.
are no longer
future technologies, there are tools for today and form the basis
of the tools needed for responsive websites. Using CSS3 media
queries a browser is able to choose how to layout the web document
based upon the proportions and even orientation of the device your
viewer is using. This is a huge evolutionary switch from the server
powered web applications of yesterday making the client and the
user the decision maker instead of the server.
Through these tools we can create thicker clients that lead our interaction through a website in the most appropriate way. Important to note is that this is not just repositioning and resizing content it involves recomposing the information we are presenting the user. Mobile users have different needs and device capabilities to desktop users. By thinking mobile first information is targeted to a core of data relevant to a user on the move whilst ensuring the user interface and media we wish to provide will reach the user.
The tools to achieve this mobile web development is here today but the basis of their use is time consuming and can be repetitive as each media query decides how to present the UI to a device. To assist with the developer's and designer's needs development frameworks are emerging, notably SASS and LESS. These frameworks provide tools to speed up, scale out and maintain responsive development in a world where a new device and a new set of proportions and capabilities are always around the corner.