Is responsive design the next big thing for the web? What does this mean for museum websites and app development?

OK, I am no techie but the ideas that our colleague, Russ, has been discussing with us lately around responsive design have excited me! Russ's presentation summarises his research on responsive design, some examples and how we are applying these ideas as we rebuild aspects of our website.

This article Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte gives a great overview of the thinking behind responsive web design, as well as where it may go. As Ethan states:

This is our way forward. Rather than tailoring disconnected designs to each of an ever-increasing number of web devices, we can treat them as facets of the same experience. We can design for an optimal viewing experience, but embed standards-based technologies into our designs to make them not only more flexible, but more adaptive to the media that renders them. In short, we need to practice responsive web design.

For me, responsive design has turned website and app development around, with two implications for how museums manage their online presence. First, we need to think about designing for mobile first as outlined in this article Mobile First Helps with Big Issues. We followed this idea and it resulted in changes to the ways we approached several pages from the earlier designs. Second, I believe it frees us from the 'there's an app for that' approach to getting our content out there. For example, an exhibition website built under responsive design could mean a separate mobile app/site is not needed at all. But, before Director's rub their hands thinking of all the money they'll save, of course there still will be times when content and apps are the perfect partners. However, as Jim Richardson tweeted "... everything we now build will be responsive", so we need to be aware of what this means for us. Want more examples? Go to this post on DesignModo for 50 of them!

Russ and I have also been talking about an idea for a location-based responsive site/app that changes according to where you are. For example, as you leave home the site gives you visiting and transport information, as you approach the Museum's building you get info about what's on and prices, once you pay it changes again providing you info on exhibits and programs based on your interests. Then, wouldn't it be cool if after you leave the Museum the site changes again to encourage you to delve deeper into content and encourages conversation and sharing. Is this closer than we think??