Keeping Up as Technology Changes

Working in our kind of business demands that you embrace change with open arms. As technology and the tools we use evolve at an increasing pace, our biggest challenge is keeping up with it all. I’m sure you feel the same.

As user experience designers and strategists, we must continually reassess how changes in technology are affecting user behavior and expectations, as well as the impacts on the interfaces and patterns we rely upon when creating our designs.

To this end, we shouldn’t take for granted that what was true yesterday is still true today. In this article, we explore a few things you thought you knew, but actually have changed recently due to changes in technology.

Content must be stacked in a set order

One of the central challenges of web user interfaces has always been content layout. With the advent of responsive web design a few years ago, we could finally create mobile-friendly design.

Back then, however, we were limited to “floating” boxes either to left or right. This meant it was crucial to put content blocks in a particular order so they would stack properly on tablets and mobile devices.

Did you know this is no longer the case? It’s still extremely important to consider what is the most effective order for your content at each breakpoint, but today’s CSS offers much more flexibility.

Thanks to a pair of layout methods called Flexbox and Grid Layout, the content boxes in your layout grid can adjust to fill the space, spread out within the space, re-order on various screen sizes and even stretch across multiple columns or rows!

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Pages are pages

It’s only natural to talk about websites in terms of “pages.” We humans have been reading from pages for centuries and that’s how websites have generally been organized.

Over the past several years, though, the rise of Javascript frameworks like Angular, React and Vue has begun to fundamentally change this notion. Users no longer have to wait for a page to load after interacting with an element on the page.

Just visit Google Maps to help paint this picture. When you search a topic or place, it loads into the screen without a page refresh. When you move the map or zoom, it updates but there is no page refresh.

This change may seem subtle, but it opens the door to a wide range of new user experience patterns that previously did not exist. When wisely used, immediate responses in micro-interactions can feel more realistic; data can update instantaneously; entire sites can be explored offline – all of which can be used to improve the user experience. And we’ve only see the tip of the iceberg on where this can take us.

Everyone uses the web the same way

This is not new at all, but it seems like we are finally, truly crossing into a new and welcomed era in which more and more websites support all users. This means supporting users regardless of whether they access the web with a laptop, a smartphone, an assistive keyboard, a wearable device, a screen reader, a smart home device, or even their vehicle.

And that means it’s obviously no longer safe to assume that people use the web the same way you do. We all use the web in a unique way and to accomplish our own particular goals. The upshot of this is that the content of the web has to become more and more independent from the medium.

It’s a shame it took so long, but the business case is now undeniable – and the momentum seems unstoppable. By separating content from the technology, we are far more capable of meeting modern accessibility guidelines and providing access regardless of socioeconomic status, among other things.

There are countless other things evolving as I write this and many more to come in the future – and we welcome the opportunity to solve those problems eagerly. If you’re ready to reassess how changes in technology are affecting your users, get in touch with us to start a conversation.

Tony Johnson is a User Experience Consultant at Crux Collaborative.

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