For years now, we’ve been aware of the importance of building responsive web applications so that they are visually and functionally sound when accessed on a myriad of devices.
However, while we’ve been used to designing for the standard smartphone, tablet, and desktop screen sizes previously, evolving technologies may challenge what it means to be truly responsive.
As we prepare for the new year, it’s also time to prepare ourselves for the ways that testing, development, and design will change with new innovations. Here are the trends that we see starting to pop-up:
At Samsung’s recent developer conference, they announced Infinity Flex Display, a foldable screen that will allow users to fold a larger 7.3-inch tablet into a smaller phone, and vice-versa. This foldable device is planned for release in 2019, but thinking beyond that, the technology behind Infinity Flex Display creates countless possibilities that will make us reconsider responsive design. While before, you had to look at how a web application might look on one screen size vs another, now developers and designers will have the challenge of making a seamless transition for multiple screen sizes on a single device.
While we can expect to see foldable screens in the near future, Samsung, LG, Sony, and other vendors have also discussed stretchable, bendable, and rollable screens. Samsung’s flexible OLED screen is set to be 9.1 inches and will stretch 12 millimeters in either direction, while LG has an 18-inch prototype that can be rolled up like a piece of paper. While these screens might seem like an unnecessary innovation, there’s an added benefit of being more resistant to damage. While stretchable screens will likely be first used for tablets, it has the potential to be used with other devices such as wearables, car displays, TVs, digital readers, and more. This calls into question how web applications will work under circumstances that are not completely 2D.
The Ever-Expanding IoT
As wearables and other IoT technology from cars to smart refrigerators become more common, the companies that make them are simultaneously introducing more ways to expand capabilities. While these gadgets previously work solely with their own native applications, possibilities of allowing browsing on the World Wide Web is coming up more often. In Apple’s 2018 Worldwide Developers Conference, they announced the ability to access web content on your Apple Watch for the first time with watch OS 5. This got everyone talking about what it takes to design for a resolution that’s small enough to sit on our wrists, but we imagine that this is just the start of surfing the web on unconventional screen sizes.
With the iPhone X came the inception of the notch. There were mixed emotions, but it certainly didn’t deter people from purchasing the iPhone X, and many other smartphone models followed the lead of Apple once again. Developers and designers were suddenly tasked with creating applications that account for the invasive cut-outs. Now we’re seeing the notch evolve and take on new forms as mobile vendors attempt to find the best placement for the front-facing camera. In fact, the Samsung Infinity series of four phones seem to be entirely identical besides than the notch placement, which changes from a U-shaped middle notch, to a V-shaped middle notch, to an O-shaped cut out on the upper left-hand side, to being notch-less.
In another attempt to combat design issues that arise from front-facing cameras, some mobile vendors are taking a completely different route to the notch with dual displays. In fact, devices like the Vivo Nex will attempt to avoid front-facing cameras all together by installing a second touch screen and camera on the back of the phone to serve this purpose without interrupting your primary experience. While this might seem excessive lengths to go to just to avoid a notch, versions such as the Nubia X will make sure the back screen is off when your phone is so that the back looks like normal glass. Although we probably won’t see this option explode in the next few years (especially as the Nubia X is only expected for release in China), it does call into question how the dual screens would work in tandem to be properly responsive.
Touch Screens Galore
While touch screens have previously been primarily used for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets, this technology has recently been popping up for notebooks and laptops as well. Where mobile QA teams have been tasked with the challenge of validating scrolling, tapping, and swiping actions on smaller screens, we can expect to see an increasing number of devices that will need to be tested in the same way. Testing on real devices has always been a priority for teams to make sure these user actions are accurately replicated, but now this could become a necessity for laptops and desktops as well
Looking Toward the Future
It’s impossible to know which of these trends will take off and which will be short-lived, but by being aware of new inventions and innovations in technology, we can be more prepared to adapt our products for them.In the meantime, ensure that your web application has a basic foundation of responsiveness when it comes to cross-device compatibility, continuously prioritise web testing across various screen sizes, and keep a lookout for more disruptions that may change the way we think of the future for responsive web design.