Is Responsive Design the Answer?
Published: November 22, 2013
My family and I were on our way to Siesta Key for our annual 4th of July pilgrimage when my wife, Julie, remembered that we had forgotten to stop the mail. I thought, “no worries ... I have a smartphone.” I pulled up the USPS website and started pinching and zooming to navigate through the site. Finally, I managed to figure out how to put a hold on the mail — the site has a calendar widget that allows you to select the date range when you want to have your mail stopped. However, it wasn’t that easy. Every time I tapped the calendar widget, it disappeared off the screen. GRR ... close.
The issue on USPS’s website is an issue that we, as mobile device users, often experience. The site was built using traditional website design techniques with the expectation that users would view it on a desktop computer. Making that assumption results in a non-friendly, frustrating user experience for anyone accessing the site on a mobile device.
Today, users are accessing more information from the Internet using devices other than a traditional desktop computer. Consequently, designers face the challenge of meeting certain expectations to maintain the user experience. This is why designers turn to Responsive Design, a web design approach aimed at crafting sites so they provide an optimal viewing experience — easy reading and navigation with a minimum of resizing, panning, and scrolling. Responsive Design allows information to be accessed across a wide range of screen sizes — from desktop computers to mobile devices.
Not only could Responsive Denosign have solved my issue on USPS’s website over the 4th of July weekend, but it can also solve issues that we are facing in e-learning here at Tribridge HCM. First, almost every authoring tool is derived from PowerPoint’s slide metaphor. When users view e-learning, the content is displayed with absolute positions on the x/y axis. This technique worked well on traditional desktop computers but does not work on mobile devices. Second, the norm for these layouts is to use cookie-cutter animations and template interactions that do not scale to the various screen sizes — similar to the calendar widget in my experience. The rigid interaction paradigm currently used will have to translate to all other screens or risk alienating a user during the learning process.
To sum it up, Responsive Design can serve as the solution when designers need to meet the following expectations:
- Adapting content to a certain screen size
- Technology and techniques are fully backed
- Brave new world — don’t be afraid to rethink traditional design models and curriculum structures
As web designers, we are forced to create content that will translate to every screen to provide the best user experience possible. Responsive Design solves that issue. Now if we took this technique and blindly applied it to e-learning, we potentially would create the same frustrating learner experience. We need to take this concept and apply it properly to e-learning by taking into account the environment of our learner and targeting topics that can be quickly consumed, like performance coaching, just-in-time learning, or knowledge reinforcement. Where else could Responsive Design fit in your e-learning toolbox?