Over the last three years, as the sizes, shapes and connectivity of web enabled devices have proliferated, responsive design has become an important framework for delivering usable experiences to users everywhere. But as valuable as responsive layouts have been, the early realities of poor mobile connectivity and sub-3G download speeds have entrenched a purely reductive mindset when it comes to responsive design.
With LTE, faster wifi and more powerful browser tech, however, we finally have the chance to imbue responsive design with its true power to enhance the experience on any device. Responsive doesn’t equal reductive. We think it’s time for Responsive+, a level of design thinking that brings optimal experiences to each device.
There is massive opportunity for both the user and the business on the table when we start delivering a richer experience crafted for mobile. Mobile use and tech have changed drastically since responsive design debuted; to wit, 35% of moms using mobile to shop, or research shopping, every day. The conversion improvements seen by ecommerce companies who implement responsive design are another clear sign that it’s time to rethink what exactly we’re delivering on these devices. It’s time to abandon responsive reductionism and instead think Responsive+.
So what is Responsive+ exactly? It’s not a set of particular tactics; it’s a shift in our mental model when it comes to responsive design delivery. Rather than the removal of elements from the “full” site we need to embrace a mode in which design enhances and improves the mobile experience. What does that look like in practice? The sky’s the limit when it comes to specific features and tactics. We humbly suggest a few as starting points.
- Interaction design – Go beyond the standard smartphone UI patterns to truly intuitive interactions. Take the lead from apps like Clear and Rise and ask where can we replace clicks with swipes and other interactions that are easier and more useful without a mouse.
- Leverage the platform – Mobile phones provide so much additional data over traditional desktops. Why ask a user to type in their city in a mobile form. Populate it with their current GPS coordinates and let them change it if needed. Gyroscopes, navigation, cameras among other technologies, provide new, creative ways to craft the user experience.
- Appify it – Users love their apps. How can you deliver an app-like experience via your mobile designs? Changing links to easy-to-push buttons, using HTML5 for continual scroll and other tweaks can make the experience feel more native and satisfying.
Responsive+ is about taking a hard look at the assumptions we carry with us into mobile design and being creative with how we leverage the platform to create a high-quality experience. As mobile continues its ascent in the user experience hierarchy, it’s more critical than ever to scrutinize not only our designs, but our beliefs about mobile.
Responsive design needs to mature, and an important next step is evolving from reduction-based thinking to focusing on optimization. How can we use responsive design to deliver the optimal experience on a mobile device, rather than just a minimalist one? How can we shift our thoughts from starting with what we have to remove from the mobile experience, to focusing on what the optimal experience can be? Once we make that shift we can ensure we’re not limiting what’s possible, but be confident we’re delivering the best experience possible.