Data Diaries: Imagining the future of digital experiences

Data continues to tell us people are spending more and more time looking at their mobile devices than any other platform available. As mobile devices have risen to the platform of choice, so has our incorporation of mobile applications into our everyday activities.

According to a 2014 study, Americans now spend more time staring at phones than TVs. As a designer, this data point is so interesting to me in terms of how we design experiences for these emerging mediums. It gets me thinking about how much web design has evolved in the past few decades, and how rapidly it will change in the near future.

Whether we’re looking for transportation, a meal, interacting with our friends or just killing time, mobile apps have become ingrained in both our habits and culture. They’ve become the major channel for accessing and interacting with the web on a device, but the mobile application isn’t the only way people are connecting to brands digitally. Every brand with a digital presence has a need for storytelling on mobile devices, but they don’t all necessarily need a standalone mobile application to tell that story.

To fill that void, web designers have adopted both adaptive and responsive design techniques to create dynamic websites that provide an optimized experience for the specific device you’re using. This allows brands to engage their customers on mobile without needing a standalone app.

adaptive-responsive design
An example of how adaptive and responsive sites behave when sized. Image credit: Fast Company


While I think adoption of this design framework is a beautiful solution, innovation for the future of interfaces isn’t moving fast enough. Responsive design is great for displaying information fluidly on an array of device screen sizes. But what about when the level of interaction goes even deeper than a touch screen or traditional peripheral?

For example, our colleagues at Apple recently announced 3D Touch, which adds an entirely new level of depth for interactions on a mobile device. Completely new platforms such as virtual and augmented reality also bring fresh possibilities into the mix; what new solutions will we see in web design to accommodate these emerging technologies?

In thinking about how designers and developers will begin to shape how we experience the web via these new mediums, I begin to wonder about what the next “responsive web design” will be. How do we create a design framework that not only accounts for different screen sizes, but also various input mediums, such as 3D Touch and display requirements?

With an open framework for web experiences that not only accommodates current platforms but also anticipates future technologies, the ability to scale a brand’s digital experience in a beautiful way would be greatly expanded. Designers and developers would be able to fully embrace a platform earlier and more completely, connecting people with those brands in meaningful ways sooner.

Here’s hoping that this design aspiration – fueled by the fact that we as Americans are spending an entire month out of every year on our mobile devices – grows as fast as our infatuation with digital gadgets and experiences.

Data did that.


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