Designing for sustainability means providing appropriate content quickly and efficiently to the user on many devices, now and in the future. That means designers and developers have a challenging task in trying to design and build for an industry that is evolving at a rapid pace.
Where to start? Well, current trends and statistics can hopefully give us some foresight in how we might build sustainable designs. We’ll discuss the current landscape of online usage and then try and predicate where it’s heading.
This shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. We all know that mobile usage has exploded in recent years, with mobile devices generating just over 50% of global website traffic. However, one thing to note is that emerging digital markets such as India are going straight to mobile devices and skipping desktop devices. This is important as more emerging markets with large populations such as the Philippines will soon add to that significant portion of global website traffic via smartphones.
Yet we must be careful not to get blinkered with just saying mobile first when it comes to sustainable design. Yes, the numbers point to larger usage on these devices, but we must understand what mobile devices are being used for.
Currently, and what is predicted for the next decade, is that mobile is largely used for video streaming and using apps such as Facebook and Instagram. So with what we know about mobile, how it is used and who will be using it, it may be a good idea to revisit something else. Adaptive web design.
Adaptive web design – the pros and cons
Where responsive design has different design patterns to fit different view ports e.g mobile and tablet, Adaptive web design has multiple fixed layout sizes. For example when you access a website on a tablet, the site detects the viewport size and then chooses the most appropriate design for that screen. That means you could have six different designs to cover viewports from mobile, all the way up to smart TVs and everything in between.
Whilst there are of course some obvious downsides, such as needing more designs developed which can be costly, or a bruise to your SEO due to having similar web pages hosted on the same URL, there are some huge positives. Where Adaptive web design can excel in Sustainable design is optimising the best results depending on the phone’s capabilities.
Adaptive web design prioritises user experience
As mentioned above, mobile users and usage is growing at an extraordinary rate with no signs of slowing, so even more so, we must consider those users with slow connections. Not everyone will have strong, stable connections nor will they have the latest smartphone and not to forget the varying CPU and memory variations.
Adaptive web design methodology is about serving a different codebase depending on what device has been detected. So for those devices detected with poor connectivity, content such as videos and images may be specifically chosen in order not to affect load times. The user gets the same website, but maybe with less images or a reduced menu choice. This slimmed down version allows the user to have a good user experience, with good performance and load times, and for businesses conversion rates may improve.
Could Adaptive web design be the answer for the future?
This is just one small possible approach in the future of Sustainability Design, and as with anything, your business would need to weigh up the pros and cons. But as the future heads towards mobile with conversion rates dependent on site speed, Adaptive web design could be a pretty good solution.