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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How mobile devices affect design

One of the surprises this year has been how quickly the iPad has affected the design of Web sites. Even before Apple sold the first three million iPads, designers were reworking the site layouts, not just to make the content fit whether in portrait or landscape, but to make the content look like an iPad app. Mobile phones certainly never had this effect.

But beyond the matter of layout, there are other concerns for designers and developers as they think about ways to make content work on mobile devices, especially the tablets.

First, there is the matter of screen real estate. Aspect ratios of the mobile device displays are not proportional to desktop displays. In some cases, the aspect ratios will not work well with videos, resulting in loss of image area or in wasted screen space. The tablets have several times more area than do the mobile phones, but legibility and space are still concerns.

There are interface considerations. The mobile devices do not operate with a mouse – they rely on touch. This means, at a minimum, that mouse-over effects won’t work.

Then there are the obvious limitations of the iPad, which does not support Flash, or Java. In addition, the iPad supports only a limited range of video formats – many videos will require conversion in order to play on the device.

Finally, content producers will need to make a choice between creating content as an app (or as two apps – one for iPad and one for Android) or as Web-based content, or between HTML 5 and Flash (or both).

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