March 29, 2011
A New Age of Web Design
The primary subject of research and discussion during my tenure at university, was the gradual move towards ubiquitous (or pervasive) computing. It was unanimously accepted that we were inevitably moving towards this end, but only few examples of it existed at the time. Well now the Internet has finally caught up…
Introduction to Pervasive Computing
I should probably start at the beginning. Pervasive computing is a relatively new model for how we as human beings interact with computers. In a post-desktop era of computing, people are now able to access their system ‘ubiquitously’ using mobile devices, where they blend in so much into their everyday life that they become almost invisible.
An old example is an automatic garage door. You carry a device on you in your car, and when you arrive at a certain point it communicates with a computer and opens the door for you. Without computer technology this wouldn’t be possible, but then you’d probably go ahead and use this technology without even thinking about it.
Ubiquitous Computing in Web Design
So how do garage doors have anything to do with mobile website design? Well the comparisons are quite similar. With the current boom in ‘App’ development, many users much prefer to access their online data through a secure, easy-to-use mobile app, any time, anywhere. How many of these people do you reckon know that the technology still revolves around the very old TCP/IP model which has existed since the birth of the Internet? Not many…
This means that users will now expect different things from your website. It no longer needs to be flashy and loaded with content. It needs to serve a purpose with ease and functionally.
Those that have read my Magento Blog articles will know that my passion for ecommerce doesn’t overlook the importance of developing online shops for use on mobiles. But just because it’s on a mobile device it doesn’t mean that functionality should be stripped down, it just needs to be utilised in a different way. For example it’s more likely that an online shopper who’s sitting with his iPhone on a bus is more likely to search for his item and buy it instantly rather than browsing and window shopping as you might do on a desktop when you’ve got some time to kill. That’s why product searches are made more prominent on ecommerce apps.
Websites in Your Pocket
I quite like Wikipedia’s definition:
“… Ubiquitous computing is defined as ‘machines that fit the human environment instead of forcing humans to enter theirs.’”
Can you draw the parallels here? Web design must now be built to suit the needs and the environment of the user. So far the result has been devices with much smaller screens controlled by touch, and websites that optimise this technology with much simpler and user-friendly interfaces. There’s no doubt about it, a mobile website looks a lot different to a normal website – more is less. Yet many development company’s still find the transition daunting and will continue to develop desktop-only website. It’s not something you can pretend isn’t happening because it already has.
I think that the Internet will become even more ubiquitous in the future. It’s hard to imagine how you’d interface with websites in an even simpler way than accessing an app on your phone, but it will happen and when that day comes we’ll start over again!
The point of this post is to point out the importance of mobile web design in an industry which has been so focused on traditional desktop computing that it may have lost sight of in the evolving technological world in which we live. My advice to web designers out there is to jump on board as soon as you can and embrace the new age of web design.