A Responsive Web

Transforming the Internet through Responsive Design, Personalized Search, Content Interaction, and Big Data

The digital space of flows of the Internet is seeping into every aspect of our lives from business, to learning, to socializing and even to the redefinition of self. As the digital and physical worlds become deeply enmeshed, existing in both spheres demands new challenges for developers, designers and prosumers of information.

Back in 2010, Ethan Marcotte wrote a seminal article about responsive webdesign on A List Apart, and the movement is finally becoming mainstream. The concept of a flexible foundation for design is taking hold as more and more designers and developers move to create platforms that enable the web to be easily accessed and beautifully transformed to work on any device of any screen size. It adds a whole new level of creativity to the design process as we need to consider the device, its technology and capabilities and various methods to enhance the viewer’s experience.

Beautiful Simplicity in Design

Part of the creative process in working within the ever-shifting sands of technology demands an incredible level of flexibility, since there are so many variables to consider. When you develop a new website you need to consider the client, the viewer, the varying devices accessing the web, search engine technologies, global reach, content, speed, and most importantly beauty.

I have long been a proponent of making the web beautiful, and have worked hard to pass this on to my students, clients and various businesses within my collaborative collective. A beautiful simplicity has resulted from this creative drive. Simplicity in design is often very elusive, but in seeking an artistic solution to complex design issues, it is a path that enhances creativity and provides a beacon to illuminate the process of layering simplicity over great complexity.

Beyond Responsive Website Design

Responsive website design is the first step to a more responsive web experience. Working with CSS frameworks and the power of HTML5 and touch programming techniques in Javascript, a website can adapt to any device easily and with a beauty of fluidity in motion. This is the first step.

Search through big engines such as Google is becoming more personalized, if the user wishes to sign in and expose all their online activity. While this may be useful on many levels in order to bring relevant content to a digital citizen faster, it also requires a great deal of data mining, touches on fears of privacy and can be quite intrusive. Aside from those common concerns, restricting searches based on daily habit may shut off deep elements of the internet that may provide viewers growth past routine.

With the emergence of the ever-transforming content creator class,we have an opportunity to further enhance the responsive web through developing conversations around information production and consumption while adapting to social media channels, search engine and business/institution requirements. Imagine if your digital identity was given opportunities for intellectual and emotional development through a responsive web that not only adapted to your search needs, but offered opportunities for learning. Thankfully Google and other engines have evolved their website ranking techniques based on relevant content and authority. This gives much more power to those who adapt content to user/viewer needs.

Interactive Content

As the web transforms into being a more responsive framework for work, learning and social spaces, interactivity is also being built in. Interactive content begins on the level of device universality and moves into the domain of user interaction opportunities. No matter how you access the internet, content should be easily readable and download quickly.

Yet, beyond this, content should also be designed for the reader, the market, and for knowledge creation. Interaction possibilities through social media, commenting, and online conversation bring more power to content, increase authority of information and enables a structural transformation of the public sphere on which Habermas provided insight years ago. Information can be transformed through its presentation, the interaction of information and the viewer as well as the interaction of information with information — which leads me to ultimate responsive technology — Big Data.

Informationalism and Big Data

A deeper level of the responsive web integrates our physical and digital lives on a whole new level of interaction. As we become surrounded by an Internet of Things, our everyday objects become interconnected with the web and feed data to transform our physical spaces. Everything from our cars to our clothing can be connected to the internet and feed information and use information to adapt to our needs or wants. While this transformation is happening faster than laws can change to protect privacy and other important aspects of our lives, billions of devices are coming online and interacting with each other to capture information, share data and adapt responses to our needs. What results is a “thinking” internet of things that interact with each other as they adapt to our behaviours and needs.

In a global one-time interactive society based on Informationalism, interactive information that is responsive could also become the foundations of a new economy based on information. The responsive web thus goes beyond how we interact with our digital public spheres to new levels of technology where it also responds to every device around us.

Responsive Adaptation

As our dual realities of existence in the digital and physical worlds coalesce into one integrated space flows in a timeless time, our public space of the internet becomes a flexible responsive information-based extension of self. Our digital identities then, must also become responsive to change, as we search for a persona that is flexible enough to exist in both worlds.

The challenge for developers, designers, businesses, content creators and all various types of prosumers is to create and consume information on new responsive platforms that do more than just adapt to device screen size. A true responsive web requires a new level of communication that adapts to each individual user on the level of his or her access to the internet, personality, preferences, interests, habits and comfort zones of interaction with the web. This is best accomplished through responsive design, personalized adaptive search, interactive content and big data derived from an internet of things.