Mobile Know-How: Responsive Web Design

ImageEvery day, more than 1.3 million Android devices are activated globally — far more than the number of babies born each day. By 2016, there will be 1 billion smartphone users on the planet, with 257 million mobile phones and 126 million tablets used in the U.S. alone. And before the end of the year, more internet-connected mobile devices will roam the earth than people. Users are leaving their desktops behind, with more than half of all website traffic coming from handhelds now, and many users, especially in the Third World, have only their phones to connect to the Internet. [Sources: Cicso and Forrester Research as analyzed by TheNextWeb]

So, the better your website looks and functions on a small device, the more future-proof it will be. And especially if your company caters to women, think mobile first: a recent survey found that more women use smartphones than men (58% vs. 42%).

Successful brands have revamped their online presence to work on any device, be it desktop, tablet or mobile. We all crave communications that work everywhere — and we want to shop anywhere on the go. Web design is changing in the mobile age and adopting full tablet and mobile functionality. But why stop there? Since users want clean, simple, smart and scaled-down interfaces on their handhelds that load content quickly — why would they want anything different when returning to their desktops? Less is more on all platforms — and good content always matters.

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The Sins of Our [Web Development] Past

I just came across these pictures (top: homepage; bottom: sub-landing page) of my first, heavily text-based website that I built in 1998 (Hmmm. Where were screenshot options back then?). Here are larger sizes of the top and bottom images. The blue arrow blinked, and the site was entirely built by hand-coding with a strict print-layout style in mind. WYSIWYG editors or blogging platforms back then? Pah!

Notice, my email address was @compuserve.com… I was really into typography.

It is fun looking back. Back then, I experimented with HTML and made many (in hindsight), horrible design choices. But there weren’t that many templates and how-to guidelines to go by.

Now, the same site looks like this, with CSS3 and HTML5 and social media plug ins, Google Analytics and what not.

We’ve come a long way. Here is a stunning infographic about the evolution of the web. Another graphic by Mashable shows the progress in web design over the years. And check out here how Amazon, Google, Apple and Hotmail, among others, looked like just 10 years ago.

On that same note, here is a website dedicated to web designs of the past: “What Was the First Website You Designed.” You can submit your own first designs there. Don’t be shy.

And to all you non-designers or web developers who grew up with the ease of social media and blogging platforms to publish your stuff: Don’t smirk. Not so long ago, we were pretty much left on our own to come up with what you might take for granted now.

UPDATE: Found the amazing Waybackmachine by Internet Archive (http://archive.org/web/web.php) that lets you search screenshots of any site over the years. Check my site going back to 1999 or plug in an URL and go back in time.