The next site I design will not be for ‘desktop’

The average evening in my house involves eating, maybe a glass of wine and watching whatever we can find on Netflix whilst trying to decompress from a day at the coalface.

Both my Girlfriend and I work on the web meaning at least 8 hours of the day is spent in front of a laptop screen or a computer monitor.

Since becoming a freelancer last year I have made more of an effort to not use my trusted, albeit tatty Macbook Pro after 17:30. The lid gets shut and it stays in the office, or my bag if I am working on-site with a client. My girlfriend does the same, although for her this has never been as big a problem, rarely using her laptop whilst at home.

This hasn’t stopped us trawling the internet however. Instead, like many of the population, we are looking up things from our true personal computers; our mobile phones.

The way I see the future of home computing is not far from the realities of today. There will be no ‘desktop’ machines, nor will there be ‘laptop’ machines. This is happening now in emerging territories such as India and South Africa as well as in the stable nations of the west.

In India, The South Americas and parts of South Africa, the web is waking up. Not because it has never been there before, but because technology is finally enabling access at affordable prices for the youth. Nokia, love or loathe them have invested significant sums into the mobile industry in these territories and with good reason, mobile phones are still a status symbol for many whilst we look at them in the same way we do the kettle or the toaster, always there, always plugged in and used as and when we please, the youth of these nations still take great pride and excitement from becoming mobile.

The mobile phone is their only means of communicating and experiencing with the world, it is also the only computer they own, or have ever owned, or in some cases ever touched. By the end of 2014 it is predicted 97% of the population of India will have a mobile phone subscription, in 2010 19million people signed up for mobile phone subscriptions a month with billions of $USD being invested in wireless infrastructure of the country each year.

Using Moores law, we should be looking at an iPad that out-spec’s the latest Macbook Pro within 3 years, all you need is software developers to release their apps for these devices and the decline will accelerate as businesses also move away from their usage. In the last 18 months more of my enquiries about new applications have been based on a need for them to work on smart phones or tablets than anything else; businesses are already struggling with workforces who do not want to be bound to their desks all day.

I no longer see the need to design for big screens as a primary focus, in truth, I don’t think I ever did. Much of the ‘design’ that went into making things for the web on screen was vanity. Of course this will never change, but for me, it just doesn’t make sense unless you are only interested in entertaining, literally a dying generation.

I don’t think we should be designing mobile first and adding in features as we step up. Phone browsers are more capable (except for you blackberry…) than the majority of desktop browsers anyway and have greater device API functionality which allow us to develop engaging and immersive experiences than workstations, all we do is compensate for their lack of functionality by making it look nicer, more dazzle, more bling. That doesn’t mean I believe we should make visually unappealing sites/apps, plenty have shown that even with a small viewing space you can make something really shine, just that we shouldn’t be throwing hours into crafting an experience which has less uptake and may only have a viewing window of 8 hours a day between 9AM and 5:30PM.

Published by

Andy Parker

User Experience Designer, headbanger, biker, skater, gamer from Brighton UK.