Clarissa Peterson spoke to the January meeting of Web Content Mavens about building responsive websites. A responsive website is one that automatically adjusts the display to suit the device of the user, whether it be a common cell phone, or a giant screen desktop. Obviously this poses many challenges for web designers.
She opened her presentation by observing that "websites for mobile mostly suck". She further observed that "mobile web strategy is the same as web strategy, but without ignoring mobile," and that responsive web design is where we are going."
The Boston Globe one of the first responsive web sites, it easily adjusts the display to suit the user's device.
Adaptive technique is how you adapt content arrangement to display on different screen sizes.
Peterson observed that there are a lot of really bad responsive websites, going on to say that, "it's not like we nailed web design before we tried responsive design."
Peterson suggested that designers keep in mind the context in which people are viewing information and discard the idea that people only use mobile for activities on the run. She went on to point out that there is no mobile web, there is only one web, which we view in different ways.
Not all cell phones are smart phones, Peterson pointed out that you have to accommodate those users. (As someone who has an old fashioned cell phone, this was a welcome observation. My hosting company, Hostway, in most ways an excellent hosting service, has a webmail system that is virtually unusable with my cell phone.) Peterson said that 17% cell phone users browse the web on their phones, so it is an error to assume that people are using their computers. Indeed, the demarcations between cell phone/tablet/laptop are becoming increasingly blurred.
Peterson observed that the beauty of the web is openness, you want to be available to everyone. Therefore you need content parity, users of cell phones must be able to access your website's content, just as a computer user would be able to view it. She said Consumer Reports is an example of a website that fails to make all of its content available to cell phone users, specifically the recall information is not available to cell phone users.
At this point there were several questions about 508 requirements. Peterson repeated her view that web designers must make their sites available to all, without regard to device or the special needs of the user.
When asked about clients who do not wish to pay for responsive sites, Peterson urged designers to educate their clients about the necessity of responsive design. Audience members agreed that static sites would just have to be completely rebuilt as responsive sites two years down the road.
Continuing to emphasize the need to design for all users, Peterson reminded her audience that iPhones do not read flash, and therefore it was necessary to give iPhone users a non-flash alternative to view content.
Peterson offered examples of good responsive websites:
World Wildlife Fund
Emeril's New Orleans - rare example of good restaurant responsive site
William and Mary University
Department Homeland Security
The Rock Creek Group was gracious enough to offer a site for the meeting plus refreshments. Web Content Mavens is a group of web designers. If your company is seeking a way to reach out to this community, sponsoring a meeting or offering hospitality would be an economical way to do so.