Lara and her colleague Destiny Montague have published a ridiculously useful handbook on setting up a device lab. For such a small book, it’s surprisingly packed with information.
But we are promised and shown a world where technology is gorgeous and streamlined and helpful and light and unobtrusive. We don’t live in that world. That world is a fantasy. The hope that the Internet of Things will allow us to be free from daily headaches and logistical errors is naive.
A superb illustration of why playing the numbers game and dismissing even a small percentage of your potential audience could be disastrous.
This is the way to approach building for the web:
I want to make as few of those assumptions as possible. Because every assumption I make introduces fragility. Every assumption introduces another way that my site can break.
It’s progressive enhancement, but like Stuart, Tim is no longer planning to use that term.
Stuart writes up his thoughts on progressive enhancement following the great discussions at Edge Conf:
So I’m not going to be talking about progressive enhancement any more. I’m going to be talking about availability. About reach. About my web apps being for everyone even when the universe tries to stop it.
For once, Betteridge’s Law of Headlines doesn’t hold true, because the data in this article shows that the answer is a resounding “yes!”
The key change in all of this, I think, is that Google has gone from a world of almost perfect clarity - a text search box, a web-link index, a middle-class family’s home - to one of perfect complexity - every possible kind of user, device, access and data type. It’s gone from a firehose to a rain storm. But on the other hand, no-one knows water like Google. No-one else has the same lead in building understanding of how to deal with this. Hence, I think, one should think of every app, service, drive and platform from Google not so much as channels that might conflict but as varying end-points to a unified underlying strategy, which one might characterize as ‘know a lot about how to know a lot’.
Brad points out the importance of supporting—which is not the same as optimising for—the non-shiny devices out there.
I really like using the Kindle’s browser as a good baseline for checking that information is available and readable.
Jeffrey muses on progressive enhancement and future-friendliness.
The launch of the Apple watch prompts Brad to remind us of the benefits of being future-friendly.
Once again, responsive design is not about “mobile”, “tablet”, and “desktop”. It’s about creating experiences meant to look and function beautifully on anything that can access the Web. We don’t know what gizmos will be sitting underneath Christmas trees two years from now, but there’s a damn good chance those gadgets will be able to access the Web.
Objects that talk are useful, but objects that tattle aren’t.
Luke continues to tilt against the windmills of the security theatre inertia that still has us hiding passwords by default. As ever, he’s got the data to back up his findings.
Anna documents the most interesting bit (for me) of her new wearable/watch/wrist-device/whatever — the web browser.
As we may understand: A constructionist approach to ‘behaviour change’ and the Internet of Things by Dan Lockton
An epic braindump by Dan, covering connected devices, product design, co-creation, DIY, and knopening stuff up. That’s right: knopening.
Knopen, a fairly obvious portmanteau of know and open, can be a verb (to knopen something) or an adjective (e.g. a knopen tool).
Patty Toland — Design Consistency For The Responsive Web (Smashing Conference Freiburg 2014) on Vimeo
Patty’s excellent talk on responsive design and progressive enhancement. Stick around for question-and-answer session at the end, wherein I attempt to play hardball, but actually can’t conceal my admiration and the fact that I agree with every single word she said.
Mat unveils Boston’s open device lab, and provides a beautiful raison d’être while he’s at it:
Websites work everywhere by default, and they stay that way so long as we know how not to break them. That’s what the Open Web means to me: ensuring that entire populations just setting foot on the web for the first time will find it welcoming, regardless of the devices or connections used to get there.
Opera Mini is about to be installed as the default browser on a few more million phones.
A peak at a near-future mundane dystopia from Joanne McNeil that reminds me of Brian’s spime story
A fantastic collection of short videos from Luke on interaction design for devices of all shapes and sizes.
Make yourself a nice cup of tea, hit “Play all”, sit back, relax and learn from the master.
Dan Donald gets to the heart of progressive enhancement:
Assumptions in themselves don’t have to be inherently bad but let’s recognise them for what they are. We know very little but that can hopefully enable us to be far more flexible and understanding in what we create.
A set of slides from Destiny Montague and Lara Swanson at Etsy with their advice on setting up a device lab. Lara also wrote about the device lab on the Etsy code blog.
An early look at the just-in-time interactions that Scott has been working on:
Nearby works like this. An enabled object broadcasts a short description of itself and a URL to devices nearby listening. Those URLs are grabbed and listed by the app, and tapping on one brings you to the object’s webpage, where you can interact with it—say, tell it to perform a task.
John peers behind the surface veneer of the web’s current screen-based setting:
The challenge for us as developers and designers for the web becomes less about screens and pixels and buttons and much more about how the web augments our lives, both actively and passively; how it makes us know ourselves and our homes and workplaces and environments better.
I like Matt’s observation here that the simple combination of a barebones data format like HTML delivered over HTTP is a good-enough low-level API for joining up all kinds of internet-connected things.
In the last 60 years, the biggest software platform for interop and integration – for new products, services, businesses, and value creation – has not been Android, or iOS, or Windows, or the PDP-11. The biggest and best platform has been the web.
One implication is that successful products are not necessarily those with seamless, beautiful, tightly-controlled “experiences”, but rather the ones that are capable of talking to each other.
Small things, loosely joined.
A terrific post from Trent, touching on all the important facets of building for the web: universality, progressive enhancement, performance …great stuff!
Got an old phone lying around that you don’t need any more? Why not donate it to a device lab? You know it makes sense.
Craig recently had a piece published in the New Yorker called Goodbye, Cameras. It’s good …but this follow-on piece on his own site is truly wonderful.
Read. Absorb. Ponder.
Being close to the network does not mean being on Facebook, thought it can mean that, too. It does not mean pushing low-res images to Instagram, although there’s nothing wrong with that. What the network represents, in my mind, is a sort of ledger of humanity. The great shared mind. An image’s distance to it is the difference between contributing or not contributing to that shared ledger.
Some excellent practical advice on progressive enhancement.
Some excellent research for web developers: find out which unicode characters have the widest support—release useful for choosing icons.
This is the talk I gave at the border:none event in Nuremberg last month. I really enjoyed it. This was a chance to gather together some thoughts I’ve been mulling over for a while about how we approach front-end development today …and tomorrow.
Warning: it does get quite ranty towards the end.
Also: it is only now that the video is released that I see I spent the entire talk looking like a dork with a loop of wire sticking out of the back of my head.
Good luck getting that script updated for the thousands of sites and applications, you say to yourself, where it’s laying dormant just waiting to send devices the wrong content based on a UA substring.
Iain M.Banks and dConstruct, together at last.
A state of the connected union address, with soundbites from smart people in the world of ubicomp, internet of things, everyware, or whatever it is we’re calling it now.
This is a really well-written and worrying piece that pokes at that oft-cited truism about kids today being “digital natives”:
The causes of this lack of digital literacy can be traced back to school:
We’ve mirrored corporate networks, preventing kids and teachers access to system settings, the command line and requiring admin rights to do almost anything. They’re sitting at a general purpose computer without the ability to do any general purpose computing.
Also, this article has the best “TL;DR” description ever.
I, for one, welcome our new recycling bin panopticon overlords.
You might want to put your phone’s MAC address into this form.
Preach it, Karen!
“Why would someone ever want to do that?” is the wrong question. It doesn’t matter why they want to do it. The fact is that people do. The right question, the one that we all should be asking, is “how can we make a better experience for them?”
A look at the degree of diversity in Android devices, complete with pretty pictures. The term “fragmentation” is usually used in a negative way, but there are great points here about the positive effects for web developers and customers.
You say fragmentation, I say diversity.
A great call-to-arms from Tim, simply asking that we create websites that take advantage of the amazing universality of the web:
The web has the power to go anywhere—any network, any device, any browser. Why not take advantage of that?
Inevitably there is pushback in the comments from developers still in the “denial” stage of coming to terms with what the web is.
This echoes what Scott Jenson has been saying: the current trend with connected devices is far too reliant on individual proprietary silos instead of communicating with open standards.
So instead of talking directly to one another, devices on today’s nascent Internet of Things now communicate primarily with centralized servers controlled by a related developer or vendor. That works, after a fashion, but it also leads to a bunch of balkanized subnetworks in which devices can communicate perfectly well with each other - but can’t actually talk to devices on any other balkanized subnetwork.
A profile of Tom’s house.
It’s weird how normal this is.
A fascinating analysis of a super-cheap phone from another world.
Welcome to the Galapagos of Chinese “open” source. I call it “gongkai” (公开). Gongkai is the transliteration of “open” as applied to “open source”. I feel it deserves a term of its own, as the phenomenon has grown beyond the so-called “shanzhai” (山寨) and is becoming a self-sustaining innovation ecosystem of its own.
Just as the Galapagos Islands is a unique biological ecosystem evolved in the absence of continental species, gongkai is a unique innovation ecosystem evolved with little western influence, thanks to political, language, and cultural isolation.
This looks like it could be a handy app for synchronising a whole bunch of devices when testing. I’ll have to give it a whirl on the device lab.
Also, it has a perfectly fair one-off price, rather than the Mafia-style protection fee model that Adobe uses for Edge Inspect.
A couple of years ago, the benefits of separate sites were more clear to me. Today, I can’t think of a good reason to maintain a separate mobile site.
Trent hammers home the point that the kind of compartmentalisation that’s traditionally been part and parcel of the web dev workflow just won’t cut it anymore.
I think it’s a bit of a shame that Brett is canning his mobile-first device-detection library, but I totally understand (and agree with) his reasons.
There is a consensual hallucination in the market, that we can silo devices into set categories like mobile, tablet, and desktop, yet the reality is drawing these lines in the sand is not an easy task.
This is the full text of Owen’s talk at the Responsive Day Out. It makes for a terrific read!
Do you know anyone in Antwerp who wants to be part of a communal open device lab? Point them here.
The slides from Anna’s terrific talk at the Responsive Day Out.
These device holders/stands look really nice, and they’d be a real help keeping my spaghetti cables in check.
I believe this may be Australia’s first open device lab. I hope it’s the first of many.
A great meaty piece from Cennydd, diving deep into the tricky question of context.
The guys at Cover Up are great: they make accessories for tablets and e-readers, so they have lots of those devices. They’ve made them all available for web developers to test on. Like I said: they’re great!
A great piece by Jason analysing the ever-blurring lines between device classes.
Mind you, there is one question he doesn’t answer which would help clear up his framing of the situation. That question is:
What’s a web app?
A great breakdown of mobile traffic to The Guardian website over time.
David takes a look at worldwide trends in web browsing, pointing out where mobile traffic exceeds desktop …and we’re not necessarily talking about smartphones here either.
It would be possible to travel from the Niger Delta on the west coast of Africa, to the horn of Africa on the east coast, without passing through a country where people surf more on desktop than a mobile phone.
This looks like it could be one alternative to Adobe Shadow or Edge Inspect or whatever they’re calling it now that they’re charging $120 a year for using it.
I know how Brad feels. I find it hard to muster any enthusiasm for any specific new device these days. But that’s okay. It’s more important to step back and see the trends and directions instead of getting caught up in the specifics of this particular phone or that particular tablet.
My remedy for device fatigue has been to take a step back and let my eyes go unfocused. Much like a Magic Eye, I can then see the hidden pictures behind the stippled noise that is the device landscape. This remedy helps me cope, gets me to stop caring about things that don’t really matter, and gets me to care about the broader trends the Magic Eye unveils.
Josh takes an-depth look at the navigation design implications of touch/keyboard hybrid devices, coming to a similar conclusion as Luke and Jason:
Unfortunately, the top-of-screen navigation and menus of traditional desktop layouts are outright hostile to hybrid ergonomics. Tried-and-true desktop conventions have to change to make room for fingers and thumbs.
Want to test for a hybrid device? Tough luck. Instead, argues Josh, the best you can do is assume that any device visiting your site could be touch-enabled.
Pictures and plans for building a plywood stand for your device lab. I definitely want one of these for the Clearleft office.
A behind-the-scenes look at how Gov.uk is handling mobile devices. Spoiler: it’s responsive.
I found this particularly interesting:
When considering the extra requirements users of different devices have we found a lot in common with work already done on accessibility.
Luke and Jason have done some excellent research (and put together some demos) into how the placement of navigation could be optimised for touch screens of all sizes. Turns out that the “standard” convention of having navigation along the top is far from ideal on a touch-enabled device.
Ryan describes the research and process behind putting together a device lab for Happy Cog in Austin. Good stuff, with handy links gathered together at the end.
This is an excellent resource from Anna. She’s documenting the browser capabilities of games consoles.
A communal device lab in Stockholm.
Andy makes a good point here, point out the difference between device testing and design testing:
When I’m designing, it’s incredibly important for me to quickly gain an affinity with how my design feels when I hold it in my hands.
A great article that looks at everything you need to know to set up a communal device lab in your town.
There’s an open device lab starting up in Washington DC. If you’re in the area, get in touch and share your devices.
Excellent! Scott has his own URL now. If you haven’t read everything he has written so far, start from the start and read every single post.
This looks like a great idea: a centralised place for listing open device labs (and hopefully getting some sponsorship from device manufacturers).
Hey look; Anna’s in a CSSquirrel comic! And for good reason: Kyle is as impressed as I am with Anna’s research into browsers on gaming devices.
There’s also a call for more community device labs. I approve.
Jason has set up a mailing list for open device labs. If you are running one, or thinking of setting one up, you should sign up to share ideas and knowledge.
There’s an open device lab in Cape Town now. Excellent!
A list of open device labs around the world (mostly Europe).
An excellent in-depth article from Anna on the many gaming devices out there that have both an internet connection and a web browser.
Helsinki now has a communal device lab. It looks great!
Dan makes a very good point about Little Printer: it’s not the “printer” part that matters; it’s the “little”.
There’s a communal testing lab just outside London and they’ve got a very nifty set-up for their devices.
Now Amsterdam has a communal device lab.
Some more thoughts on how our workflow needs to adapt to the current ever-changing device landscape.
Those articles about the “Internet of Things” I linked to? Here they are in handy Readlist form.
A really fascinating analysis by Jason into the apparent disparity in web browsing between Android and iOS devices: it turns out that the kind of network connection could be a big factor.
First we take Manhattan…
Berlin now has a communal device lab. Wunderbar!
I’ve seen Heiko present with this gizmo at Mobilism and it worked a treat. I’m very tempted to get one for future presentations.
London now has its own device lab (at the Mozilla offices).
If you’re in London and you have an old phone you could contribute, please, please add it to the contribution.
We’ll tell you what you really want: Mobile context, top tasks, and organization-centric thinking | Sara Wachter-Boettcher, Content Strategist
An excellent follow-up to the recent posts on the myth of mobile context.
You often hear about cutting content to cut clutter. I support this—if you’re cutting the clutter from everywhere, not just a mobile experience.
Maybe the answer isn’t cutting. Maybe it’s learning better skills for designing and structuring complex information to be usable and enjoyable in small spaces.
A great behind-the-scenes look at the redesign (and redevelopment) of Twitter’s mobile subdomain silo. Man, I would love to see this progressively enhanced up to the current widescreen view for “desktop” browsers without the need for separate URLs for any class of device.
But I digress …this is good stuff.
A really great article from Stephen on how we are mistakenly making assumptions about what users want. He means it, man!
Anna reports on her experience testing on a device we don’t often think about: the Nintendo DS …very popular with the young ‘uns.
Now there’s a communal device testing lab in Malmö, Sweden too.
If you’re based anywhere near Frome in Somerset, get in touch with Cole—he’s putting together a communal device testing lab.
See now, this is why liquid layouts are the way to go.
Another call for design-based (rather than device-based) breakpoints in responsive sites.