Photo Credit: IGN.com
There has been a surge of new devices coming out with a wide variety of form factors and intended functionality. There was the boom of the netbook form factor and GPS/in-car systems, followed by the iPhone® and other touchscreen mobile devices. Now companies are looking into providing more options for the touchscreen tablet-sized device and the HDTV screens that people already own (with the help of GoogleTV®, AppleTV®, and Boxee®). These all are accompanying desktop computers, laptops and modern game consoles in the fact that they are all capable of being (if not already) Internet-enabled.
When people realize that the device that they’re using is Internet-enabled, they don’t want to have arbitrary limitations on what they can access considering that all of these devices have the screens and input methods that are necessary to access and navigate around a website or Web application that they can use on their computer. They’re all using the one-and-only Internet (or at least that’s how we’d like to keep it), so they should (in theory) be able to access the same content.
Many devices follow this rule of thumb by giving users access to a Web browser of some kind and this trend is becoming more prevalent among device manufacturers. This leaves website designers with a new issue since most of the websites on the Internet were designed for computers with screen sizes ranging from around 13 to 24 inches with a mouse and keyboard. For example, needing to zoom and pan across a website that was designed for a desktop computer while using a mobile device is not the optimal experience.
It’s possible to take the same content on the site, detect the screen size of the device being used and display it in a way that best fits the device. The screen size detection is near instantaneous so it really comes down to the developers dedicating their time toward designing the new way that the content is displayed on the varying screen sizes. They can use a standard set of “Mobile,” “Computer” and “Projector/TV” options to limit the number of designs that need to be created (they might also choose to include a “Tablet” design). This still remains within the standardized capabilities of a website so the user is still simply accessing it via their Web browser of choice without needing to download an application or plug-in. (Although the developers might choose to offer an app simply due to the fact that it’s easier to access an application than to memorize and type in the URL on most devices.)
jQuery Mobile’s Testing Lab
There’s a bunch of user interface libraries that developers can implement on their websites that help speed up the process of designing, as well as standardize an expected look and interactivity between websites that were developed by people who hold no relation (other than the fact that they used the same user interface library). Here’s a few that have sparked some interest in the developer community:
I would have included Cappuccino on that list, but 280 North (developers of Cappuccino) was recently acquired by Motorola so that they can continue their efforts for Motorola devices and software.
Still, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened—Palm was also recently acquired by HP® and their efforts with WebOS (Web Operating System) will live on in HP’s future offerings. HP has already confirmed that their touchscreen tablet device coming “early in 2011” will be using WebOS instead of Windows 7 Tablet®. Apple® and Google (numerous hardware manufacturers are using Google’s software) already have a strong standing in this area and it’s reassuring to see that Motorola and HP are also making their commitment. The end result is being able to provide a centralized, yet completely open and free of corporate interests, access-point with content that’s custom-tailored to best fit the device that you are using.
It is important that we fight for this, because we don’t want our efforts of forming a centralized communication network to become overrun by large corporations that then will be able to influence what is sent over the network.