The new landscape of the web.
- 3 minutes
- February 24, 2020
Let’s walk through the new landscape of the web together. I know there are some who feel that the web is dying but this isn’t remotely true.
Just look at the variety of devices that are on the web today!
Tesla cars, Apple Watches, foldable phones, OLED TVs and whatnot!
The web is no longer just a mobile or desktop utility. It is a lot more. And yes each of these “devices” listed on the top sport a very dedicated and modern web browser with which you can reach more and more people wherever they are. And at the moment.
In my opinion, the web is doing perfectly fine, thriving even!, despite the odd narrative of massive threats from nefarious players–which may be true, but not end all be all of this Universe. We as web developers should focus on how we can make the web better by understanding the new landscape and its potential from the lens of applications.
Responsive Web Design is kaput.
There are subtle differences in the way the web is accessed on the new devices. The viewing distance for an Apple Watch, for example, is only about a foot from the viewer’s eye. The physical size of a smartwatch is barely an inch and even a responsive layout cannot scale correctly at subinch level.
On the Tesla Model S the desktop-sized touchscreen display is always in portrait mode whereas on Model 3 it is always landscape. Since passengers are held back by a safety belt in a moving car, the accessibility situation for folks inside is very different from the usual. The viewing distance too from the bay of a car seat is greater than normal viewing distance from a desktop on the table. A foldable phone can turn from portrait orientation to landscape with a simple unfolding but no rotation of the screen.
New aspect ratios, novel device capabilities, fresh user expectations, vendor support and differences in situational accessibilities make it quite an exciting time to be a web developer. Again!
Below is what the new landscape of the web looks like lately and knowing it up and close can help us prepare for the next decade better.
Did you notice that responsive web design accounts for only two pieces of the chart above?
The desktop in landscape mode and the mobile in portrait mode. That’s all.
Everything else is kind of a blur clumped together and somewhat ignored with only a basic level of support for tablets and hi-res screens. This is because responsive web design is already bursting at its seams and cannot scale any further to support newer mediums on the web.
In other words, our design model for the web has to move away from responsive and ‘mobile-first’ and shift towards something more airtight and logical. Responsive web design is kaput.
*Note that all of the devices listed above can be held or mounted in two orientations. RWD doesn’t cover orientations in isolation either.
Intrinsic Web Design.
The term Intrinsic Web Design was coined by Jen Simmons of Mozilla. Conceptually, it is similar to responsive web design in that it simply means making your app UI “belong” to the device naturally. On Toucaan we adopted intrinsic web design because it is a super-set of what responsive web design has to offer. It is in a better position to address the new landscape of the web. Think CSS grids and block-scoped typography etc.
In general, the large variety of connected devices on the web makes a case for an assumption. A rather safe one at that. That the viewports available today are on a linear continuum of physical size and only size could determine the UI pattern that would belong. Intrinsically.
A design logic that will cover all of the web.
We will be discussing some of these ideas of intrinsic web design on this very blog and if you are interested to subscribe to our feed if you are interested.
I hope you’re as excited about the new web as I am.
Datafodder: The estimates vary, but Apple is said to be selling between 10 to 20 million watches every year, and all of the new ones sport LTE and a powerful web browser.