Sunday, December 02, 2012

Classic Option with Responsive Web Design

This is to suggest web designers include a "classic"  option in their web pages, for users with low bandwidth, high latency Internet connections. This could be incorporated in Responsive web design (RWD).

RWD uses relative sizes, fluid layout and CSS3 media queries to adjust the web page layout to mobile devices. The idea is to allow for basic browsers without Javascript and then add features which more advanced units have. This differs from a design concept of "graceful degradation" where the advanced features are included in such a way they will be ignored on simple devices.

In practice it may not be worth designing web pages for "dumb" mobile phones. In Australia half the population now have smart phones and it is unlikely that many people will be bothered trying to operate a web interface on a tiny dumb phones without a touch screen.

However, RWD could be used to provide a "classic" interface for those on low speed Internet connections with high latency. Interfaces which use Javascript to  provide a highly interactive interface can cause problems where the Internet connection is slow. In these cases a classic" interface which presents static web pages and simple forms will work better. This option can be presented to the user as an option, and where the server detects a slow connection, the user can be prompted to turn it on. The classic interface could be switched on where the link is detected to be very slow, or where the server is overloaded.

As an example, the email service FastMail offers a classic interface which can be selected by the user from the log in screen. Unfortunately there seems to be no way for the user to set this as their preferred option and they have to select it each time they log in. In contrast LinkedIn offers no classic interface, making low speed browsing difficult.

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