It only really occurred to me in the last week or so that the design assumptions we make now compared to a few years ago have changed significantly. I know recently I have been banging on a lot about responsive web design and development, but responsive web design should not simply be associated with layout.

As we know it is much more than that, responsive web design and development relates to a few key elements, firstly the web and secondly the user and then everything else in between, browsers, devices, mobiles, tablets, connection speed, user experience and so on.

So why have these assumptions changed?

Quite simply with the development of modern web browsers and multiple devices our design principles have changed.

Lets take it back a few years…

Anything related with screen size will be measured in pixels. For years a standard screen width for designers to work to would be 960 pixels. This was generally considered the magic width, which would translate well on larger, and smaller screen sizes.

In the nineties, most web development agencies would develop to a max width of 640 pixels. Through the years this size has increased and in early 2000 most agencies were developing at 800 pixels wide. Everything seemed to be moving along nicely, as web technologies developed so did the quality of websites and believe it or not so did the max screen width that designers could design to.

All of a sudden the market was hit with two products, firstly the iPhone and then shortly after the iPad. Both of these products changed the digital landscape quite dramatically. For years screen size had been increasing year on year but with the release of the iPhone, a device with a very small screen size the trend had been tipped upside down.

All of a sudden our theories on screen size for the web didn’t work any more. Most websites that were now developed at the optimum size of 1024 pixels simply would not translate well on an iPhone.

Then came the iPad again a smaller screen size but this posed more of an issue in that the user may choose which orientation they browsed the internet or held the device, in either case the result is the same.

For a period of time it was probably safe to say these users were ignored. Unless you had mobile dedicated or tablet dedicated websites most websites would not have translated well on these smaller screen sizes or devices.

Enough about screen size lets look at other the common design assumptions that unfortunately are still frequently being made

A lot of web designers are still designing on the basis that we all have a mouse. In fact most designers for years have just assumed that everyone uses a mouse. We all know that this was not always the case, but for years it was generally considered that designing for the majority was OK. Websites were frequently developed that were inaccessible and even unusable for many people. With the popularity of mobile devices growing in the past number of years these users simply cannot be ignored. Many mouse over interactions do not work on touch screen devices, and this needs to be taken into account with any future web design and development work that you wish to undertake.

Computers are getting faster Devices however are not

If you have ever spoken to anyone before making the purchasing decision to buy a new laptop or computer, you can safely say that at some point you will have had the conversation that goes something along the lines of “well in 6 months time it will have been super-seeded by something quicker, faster, more powerful etc”. This is totally true, technology and computers develop at such a rate that keeping up to date with latest versions and models is simply impossible, unless of course you have a bank balance on a similar scale to Richard Branson or Bill Gates. This is all well and good for computers but mobile devices have other areas they are looking to develop not just processor speed. For example if you were to ask most mobile users which they would prefer, longer battery life or quicker processor speed then I am pretty certain that most would opt for longer battery life.

How does this impact on web design and development?

Well its important to remember that not everyone is going to be using the latest tech when it comes to mobile or even computers. The days have gone where windows users use IE (Internet Explorer) and Mac users use Safari. There are now many different web browsers, we need to ensure that our website will translate throughout all these different browsers. We must also remember that not everyone will be on the latest version, of each individual application.

So what do these changing faces of the web actually mean for us as web designers and you as users?

One thing is for sure, designing for the web has rapidly changed over the last couple of years. The web is quite unique in that there are no fixed dimensions and regular ways of interacting with it on a daily basis. A user can single-handedly wake up in the morning browse a web page on their mobile phone on the tube to work; they can then load up their desktop computer and surf the web, they can then take their tablet into a meeting, travel home browsing again on their phone and finally load up their laptop when they get home from work. That’s just one user interacting on 4 different devices in one day.

Quite simply designing for the majority is not good enough any more, in order to stay current and position your brand and company with its best foot forward online you must understand how these ever changing faces of the web will determine how your users/customers will interact with your website.

If you would like to discuss how Grey Coffee can help you with your existing web solution or a future project then do not hesitate to contact us or call us 07872 576803.