This article is also published in french Part III - Quelles sont les attentes de l’utilisateur pour votre site Web? Cela dépend du contexte.
How Do We Know What Interests a Website’s Visitor?
We must consider different points before opting for one solution over another;
Half of the world’s population accesses the Internet using a mobile device. Does the other half a desktop computer or views Internet pages on TV? It is easier to point to a QR code with a smartphone to get more information on the subject than to have to type a complex URL into a field, character by character.
It is important to consider that globally, 3% of people have severe handicap and 15% have a moderate to severe disability, not to mention that these figures respectively increase to 10% and 46% when we focus on the population aged at least of 60 years old.
Disability is not exclusive to a physical state; we must extend the idea to many problems... such as watching a video without a helmet or without speaker that necessarily requires access to subtitles sometimes written in an unknown language.
Did know that if 25% of the Chinese-speaking and 27% of the English-speaking public uses the web? French, Portuguese, Russian, Korean, Arabic, German, Japanese, Spanish speaking Internet users each represent about 3% to 8% of users, making 32% of all, who do not necessarily speak neither Chinese nor English. So, if a website has subtitles, what languages should they be? And what do we say about the 16% of users not represented in the above mentioned figures?
As developer or designer/developer, you must be equipped with the latest computer technology or browse the web using the latest browser software update. But what about your users? Maybe they are using an outdated version of browser and in this case how are your web pages displayed? What do the older browser users see?
Another significant figure we must also take into account is when we distribute content. Many pages are printed. In Europe alone, more than 33,300 pages are printed every second.
Now let’s say that the user has one of the latest fashionable smartphones; it can access a consistent bandwidth; it does not encounter problems of readability or ergonomics and, it has all the time necessary to find the information that it wants, but (and there will always be a but), the user can run out of battery power and that does not allow all content to load and execute properly.
This creates a paradox. First, it is not possible to deliver a different and reduced content based on a device. Second, it is also not possible to deliver global content, ready for anything. The only reference must be the device’s capabilities, the tolerated and available bandwidth, and ensure that the user can access a content that matches the same information quality regardless of those access realities.
How to Serve the Correct content in Responsive Web Design?
The media queries and breakpoints are the keys. Those queries and breakpoints are used to indicate when one layout must be applied instead of another. But besides those situations, we also need to use a more advanced code for specify when the appropriate content must be delivered, not only shown or hidden.
It is true that many blog post often associate breakpoints, or at least their triggers, to the display the size of the device. But we must of course understand that if the switching points, between different distribution options, can certainly be defined by a width. They can equally detect other parameters, such as: screen resolution, the screen orientation, the type of device, the color depth or monochrome management, the spoken language, etc. So there many other possibilities that enable us to adapt the layout and the presentation based on device capabilities and the users’ context and not only based on the size of the screen.
What Should be Displayed… What Shouldn’t, and… How?
An important question about the content will arise regarding its nature.
- Does it contain animations which will be difficult to print?
- Does it rely on a plenty of images that would adversely affect the visually impaired and secondly require special attention to serve the different screen resolutions?
- Does it uses specific technologies like the SWF Flash format, which won’t play on IOs based devices?
- Does it display large titles, on two lines intended for large screens, that then wraps to 5 or 6 lines on small devices? If the device is in portrait mode, does it become unreadable?
Many of these situations require distribution inequality in different contexts.
Back to the heart of the problem: should the content be different because it is on different platforms?
If it is identical in both cases, how will we handle the unusued, or hidden part, and avoid unnecessary data transfer?
It’s quite a paradox.
How to Precisely Write, and Define the Content ?
We must also understand that often the developers of information systems and content strategists are neither the authors nor integrators that will publish content.
Developers and content creators must take into account the adaptive appearance of publications.
Authors must be trained and sensitized to those adaptive appearance reflows.
All that said, we must address the technical part of this series of articles about RWD and understand all the tools that will help us to distribute the same great content whatever the context in which it is used.
And for this, I invite you to join us a few times to continue this exploration on applying RWD to our contents.
The series :
- Why Responsive Websites Are Not Just a Simple Step for Website Construction.
- Why Content Strategy should be part of Responsive Web Design ?
- What is the User Expectations for Your Website? That depends on context.
- Bringing the Content to Design