The emergence of multiple devices and platforms has made responsive design a necessary consideration for web designers and developers. But the time has come to expand our considerations beyond screen size and view ports when designing a responsive experience.
Responsive web design is a Web design approach aimed at crafting sites to provide an optimal viewing experience—easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling—across a wide range of devices (from mobile phones to desktop computer monitors).
As strategists and practitioners we must push ourselves to design superior experiences that consider context.
We’ve commonly used a person’s location to populate search results or indicate their location on a map. These crude implementations were ground breaking just a few years ago.
We should consider the possibilities to deliver content based on a person’s permanent and current location. News applications and websites could deliver stories that have local relevance when you are traveling. National news sources could generate dynamic news stories that provide local context, helping the reader better understand and internalize a news story.
Our browsing behaviors have generally been used best by the advertising industry. When it comes to context and targeting, the industry has provided many tools and opportunities to touch a person based off that information.
Unfortunately we haven’t seen the same behavior elsewhere. How could news organizations use our historical browsing data to elevate content from our most-read journalists on their homepage? Or, perhaps they could provide additional context and background to a story if this were the first article I read on a subject.
Related, it troubles me that it is nearly impossible to navigate to a popular news site to see the top headlines from a specific date. In our transition from news print we’ve lost the ability to pick up an old newspaper and immediately get a sense for the news on that day.
Related to our browsing behavior, it would be wonderful to have a service that remembers our preferences. I’m a big fan of the Foo Fighters and Common Kings. I would like to be alerted when they both go on tour again and tickets are available for my home town or cities that I will be traveling to.
How can we design services that push content and alerts to people instead of waiting for them to come back to us? The only thing stopping us is adding additional schema around the content and making it easily accessible.
Related to location, we also have the ability to gather many additional data points from a mobile device. If a person is walking an application or website could be prepared to read the content to them. Or perhaps they are sitting and the same application would deliver a video for a richer experience.
Device shifting isn’t new, but how can we fully realize the opportunity? I want to be able to continue listening to that radio show as I exit my car, or potentially listen to the archive later in the day if I am heading into a meeting.
Understanding our mobility opens up many opportunities to better manage our lives. We want applications to know that we are currently driving in a snowstorm, and that the traffic patterns and our current speed mean it should reschedule our next three meetings.
What if we could easily socialize a workout, challenging other gym members with average times today on the treadmill? It could be tailored even further by exposing the times from other locations or from our friends.
Ultimately, our mobile devices could represent a hub of our personal information that contextualize the world around us. We want to login to our gaming account at a friend’s house or broadcast a local news station in a hotel when we are on the road. How else will our personal hub inform the devices that surround us?
There are many visual and audio queues in our lives. We can program some of them – Google Glass will take a picture with a wink of our eye. But what is possible if we listen to the ambient noise and passive devices that surround us?
Battery life limits what some of our smart devices can currently accomplish. But what if we had a wearable device that was strictly responsible for actively listening for queues in our daily lives. Going beyond the Star Trek communicator, it would be great to have a device that understood our surroundings.
If we moved to a louder location the volume would be increased. Or if we were standing on a bus stop we could get updates if a bus is delayed. Or if we were on an airplane, perhaps our devices could automatically go into safe mode before taking off.
There is a wealth of information on the web, and the knowledge graph is quickly contextualizing it. Google is looking at trusted, and varied, sources to better respond to our queries.
How can organizations take advantage of similar data to immediately provide additional context? The promise of big data will openly be truly realized once we can contextualize that data in ways that are meaningful to us.
The future is intelligent assistants like Siri that will one day be more like Jarvis. Content should have context, much like we see from Google Now.
As we develop new experiences we must move beyond responsive design and usher in a new era of contextual design.