Seeking the elegant solution: Support for all devices


While on a trip awhile back, I tripped across something that I thought was strange. When trying to connect to WiFi on a touchscreen device, it wouldn’t work.  It wasn’t because the device couldn’t connect to the actual access point – that’s happened before for various reasons.  This time, it was because the submit button for the terms and conditions wouldn’t respond to a touch on a touchscreen. Somehow, an entire class of devices were missed, render the WiFi useless in that case.

Many of us thought the web was a complicated world when Internet Explorer stopped keeping up and we had to learn how to code around the bugs and limitations inherent in the browser.  But now we have whole classes of devices, resolutions, quirks and issues that those working in the web development field have to handle.

Ensuring that a touch equivalent is possible on a required page to pass through seems like an obvious one, but more subtle versions of this exist all around.

  • Buttons not properly sized for a finger press becomes a maddening exercise in not getting something to click or close.
  • Type being sized in a way that’s pretty illegible on certain device classes.
  • Web design that fails to account for the increasingly overlapping sizes between tablet, desktop and mobile.

You can usually tell when a site has been designed to be responsive, as the designs tend to be a bit cleaner and more organized, as well as more strictly following a grid.  But they also tend to be designed with large, obvious buttons and other straightforward decisions that minimize issues when downsizing. The easiest way to know which direction you should know is to analyze your audience, but also to follow the proper trends to know how your design should match up with your current and expected audience.

There’s no reason today why a site can’t accommodate a larger set of devices to ensure compatibility. All it takes a bit of proper planning and a lot of testing.  But it’s usually worth it; for awhile we were heading down the path of an app for everything; now you can usually get away with building a robust site that works for everyone instead, which is ultimately a time or money saver (and usually both).

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