One of the biggest conversation points at the <br/> conference in San Diego was Designing (and building) Responsive web sites. Everyone probably knows what that term means, but I really didn’t walking in to the conference. I am more of a backend developer, and have manages the operational side of things, so when the new buzz around responsive design came out, I only half heard it and it translated into server/page response time to me in my head. the engineer in my head would have used a more “transformative” word like reactive, or dynamic, but that’s probably why I am not in charge of our creative content.
Luke Wroblewski(@lukew) Started of the conference strong talking about this issue in a really thoughtful and conceptualized way. He explained the need for Thinking less about “devices” and more about screen size and density. I know these concepts have been around a while (and Luke has talked about them before many times), but it was more imminently “in your face” this time. As the explosion of “mobile” devices expands the viewport in which people see and interact with your content needs to be more and more adaptive. Intelligently laying out the site in a was that the content keeps in a good flow, but can be viewed in more “appropriate” ways depending on what kind of viewport the user has is becoming more and more important. This is a large part of what the conference was about, and I was really impressed at how much thought was put into it.
The reason I say this is because of my frustrations at web sites in general. We have had “good design” ideas creep up, go away, and re-surface over the years. Many of them are great ideas, but it seems many times they get lost with the next “great” thing. An example of this is everyone’s favorite carousel, “elevator pitch” and “above the fold” . Being above the fold is not a new concept, nor is the “elevator pitch”. The elevator pitch really is a misnomer for web sites, since it classically was a 30 second to 2 minute pitch of your product/service/concept. On the web, it’s been stated many times by too many people to mention in one article without having to scroll like the end of a movie, that you have about 3-7 seconds to get a users attention on a site/brand they don’t know about or trust. As trust increases, the time move up, but you still have “short attention spans” when delivering content. Carousels seemed to be the hyped up solution for ears, to provide that content above the fold. I think the idea was okay, and has valid use cases, but it became the new thing that everyone needed. In many cases the carousel is the only part of the site that is viewable “above the fold” (due to viewport size) so that’s all anyone may ever see of the site. If your carousel is not effectively selling your site, then it’s probably not providing what you really want. People may have no idea there is something below the carousel.
So what do we do instead? Hmmmm, good question. That is something I am not sure about. I spent years at one company trying to figure out how to sell an idea for a startup in 3-7 seconds, but I will admit, I don’t have that kind of marketing flair. There is something to being a good marketer (and I know a few) where they can succinctly take the value add and put it in something elegant that immediately talks to the consumer. I know I do not have that gift, and am happy to bow before those who do. I’ll stick to making things fast and tackling complicated technological solutions in short periods of time.