How mobile browsing is positively affecting how we think about design, coding and strategy.

The conversation has gone from "what about" to "must have" when it comes to responsive web design. But what's the real reason for the newest wave in web buzzwords? Accessibility baby. It's finally sexy.

The tipping point was probably when AAPL became the most valuable company in the world, signaling that more people were using iPhones and iPads than any other device out there. While many of us still spend all day tethered to a desktop, our world is fast becoming a mobile one - with more devices being pushed out to connect us to the web than we can shake a stick at. So we must respond, as must our websites.

It's important when thinking about responsiveness in the interactive field to not simply focus on the design and layout. The content must be responsive as well. Everything must be smarter - which is a great thing for people who like to geek out about content strategies and micro-data and target audiences. Sometimes the force of a physical change is the force necessary to create a more esoteric shift, and this is what responsive web design is doing to our industry.

By forcing ourselves to give up completely on the notion of a "page", which we must do in order to effectively think about responsive design, we subsequently end up shifting our thinking about the content.

No longer is it locked in a 2D space with a pretty header and a lovely font face. We are finally forced to look at that content like a "chunk" as Karen McGrane likes to refer to it. But it's not just a chunk that has to change shape. Now that it's free floating in the responsive universe, we can look at it anew. It can have all sorts of properties - and it should. Each chunk should have a series of elements that describe that chunk and a series of perspectives based on who is looking at it. In a sense we need to reframe the entire way we think about content, as we've been handicapped by thinking of it as text on paper for many years.

Each bit of floating content is like a person, it has a character, a first impression, a casual state, a fancy state, the way you see it if you are a relative or a business acquaintance. It is fluid and multidimensional. This might seem like overkill but trust me, if you start thinking this way, you'll end up developing systems and strategies that are much more useful in the long term.

Let's look at how search engines are evolving. Some of the big search engines are now getting together and forming new ways to look at content (see schema.org to learn more). This tells us that they are seeing content as shifting and becoming a more multifaceted element. The entire practice of adding micro-data to content shows how we are moving beyond the flat image of copy on a page, and the important evolutionary steps are going to happen at the microscopic levels. This isn't too far from how many things advance in our lifetimes. Once you have the foundation and structures in place, the details and nuances of the "thing" become the areas for the most exploration. We would be foolish to think that the massive adoption of mobile technology will only affect layout and code. It will inevitably affect perception and general practices.

So while we've all been getting amped up about how to design and build a responsive site, what I find really interesting is what it means to think about responsive content. I think the continuation of this conversation and angle of exploration will ultimately empower internal teams to be much more fluid and active with their content creation and management. I am certain that by allowing the content to become multidimensional, or at least having to think of it that way, we will find more useful ways to create and serve that content to our audiences. The platform will ultimately affect the user experience to the fullest degree, which is only achieved when the experience is catered to their exact needs and desires. I may be getting a little far flung in my expectations, but I'm excited either way to see them through. I'm sure you'll start to see this thinking manifest itself in some of our newer projects, and it is definitely affecting how we evolve BigTree CMS, as you'll need appropriate and flexible tools in order to build out this fuller experience.

What do you think? Is responsive web design just about the design and code, or is there a space for responsive content strategy to make its way into the conversation?

Share on Twitter or Facebook Published August 30th 2012