Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Client responsive design

We are no longer in control of the devices on which our media and services are being consumed. They are becoming more varied and numerous in their differences. This is not a new problem, we have been faced with this issue for some time. Previous best solutions revolved around detecting the device capabilities at the server side and making intelligent choices to render the appropriate, fit-for-purpose content on the user device.

This solution requires constant updating of the server side logic to account for all the new devices, this is a complex activity, prone to error and cannot possibly account for all the possible variations. Most recently there have been changes in the capabilities of most modern devices. (1) They have sufficient computing power to work out how to render their own content (ignoring legacy devices for now) (2) Most modern devices can run client side scripts to interpret data and render this data appropriately (3) We can define all web applications as services that create update or delete data based on some user action.

As computing power increases, the solution to the problem of an eco-system of differently capable devices is to develop the rendering technology that allows the device to render the multi-media content based on it`s capabilities. This removes the complexity of having to make smart choices on the server-side and having to maintain such heuristic information.  We are certainly not there yet. Many, many companies face the burdon of having to develop their Internet/Mobile offering a number of times to meet the demands of the current devices on the market. Often they can only target those devices that are most popular and have to ignore those that have less market share. This has the unintended consequence of further marginalizing the small players in the market, since their users cannot consume the media that users of the more popular devices can.

Although it is not in the best interest of the major players to do so, I believe that we will move to a more "open" system where media will be delivered and interpreted and finally rendered by the device. This requires some significant work in defining standards and frameworks that will allow this to happen.

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