The Changing Faces of the Web

The Changing Faces of the Web


The Changing Faces of the Web

27.05.2013


With an increase in the number of website users browsing from portable devices such as tablets and smartphones, the layout of the web and the way in which it is used has changed dramatically over the last few years, and has changed many old design assumptions and methods. These changes have resulted in drastic rethinking, planning and designing, and discarding many of the older design principles that were previously commonplace.

At the peak of desktop computer technology, the size of the web had expanded from a mere 640 pixels wide in the early ‘90s to 1024 pixels. It had taken fifteen years for the web to expand to fit large crystal clear monitors, and designers began to specialise in creating large and dynamic websites that filled all of the space that they were given. Then suddenly, in just a few short years, the whole design process had to be reversed as smartphone screens suddenly had to be taken into account.

Aside from the wide spectrum of screen sizes and orientation, website designers today also have to take in to account the way in which different screens can handle the colour, sharpness and contrast of a design. A good design must be equally visible on a smartphone or a widescreen desktop, and particularly with portable devices, contrast must be considered as users browse outdoors, in the sunshine, and in areas of low lighting.

Another assumption that quickly had to be modified was the use of a mouse. Website designs were typically crafted with the use of a mouse in mind, with little alternatives for those using touch screen devices. Using a keyboard or touchscreen device caused countless problems on websites that were designs for use with a mouse, and user interaction suffered as a result. How could a user see content that would be revealed only with mouseover?

Speed has been another major change in the way in which we design and browse websites, and though it is presumed that everyone browses on high-speed connections, this is unfortunately not always the case.

Today, website designers and developers must be able to adapt to the new standards, which are leaning more towards smartphones and tablet pcs, and so the focus is about defining something that every user will be able to view, by starting from the smallest screens and minimal features and then working up towards the larger desktops and state of the art computer systems. Making sure that a website works, looks good and is legible is more important than overcrowding a design with navigation that will only draw a user away.

The changing faces of the web mean that there needs to be steady progress in terms of designing for different screens and devices, then focusing further for even more specific features such as the lack of mouse or keyboard. There are new methods, new defaults, and old design principles that have to make way for a more responsive web.



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