According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary architecture is defined as the art or practice of designing and building structures and especially habitable ones. In many cases structures designed by architects can stand and serve their intended audience for centuries. The great cathedrals of Europe or the imposing temples of Asia are good examples. But today in the global world of the 21st Century the architecture of the Internet is having an influence on civilization nearly as profound and influential as those timeless edifices. One of the key differences is that unlike with its granite and marble counterparts, the Internet is constantly in a change of flux, changing and adapting to meet the growing and evolving needs of those who use it.
When Christopher Wren designed his greatest masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, he intended it to be used and venerated by the people of that great city for all time. He said at the time architects “Aim for Eternity” when turning dreams into stone. But in sharp contrast the Internet, which serves the needs of more people in a single day than have walked through the doors of St. Paul’s since it first opened, is in a state of constant transience. When only a few years ago a website served in essence as a digital brochure for its owner, today a revolution in information access means Internet architects have to design modern business websites that take into consideration the appliance being employed by the user when viewing the website. Designing websites to accommodate a full range of viewing options are referred to as Responsive Websites, an online presence becoming increasingly essential for modern business success.
By January 2014 more people were viewing the Internet via smartphones or tablet computers than they were on traditional desktop personal computers (PC). The American research firm Enders Analytics said that month marked the very first time mobile applications and handheld devices topped PCs (55% versus 45%) as gateways to the Internet in the United States. That ratio continues to expand. By July of this year 60% of global Internet access was via a tablet or phone. The writing is clearly on the virtual wall, to touch the people business need to reach, contemporary commercial websites (in reality all websites) have to be designed to be handheld-friendly right from the start.
A responsive website will change its dimensions automatically, based on the appliance being used by the viewer. A website created employing Responsive Website Design (RWD) techniques will make dynamic changes to its appearance and function depending on the screen size and orientation of the device being used to view it, regardless of the device. This design approach has to be introduced at a basic architectural level and is not something that can be hobbled together piecemeal from an existing, static website. In other words for a business to have an RWD compliant website it will probably be cheaper in the long run to carry out the work from scratch rather than by retrofitting an existing website.
There is plenty of economic reason for a business to make an RWD investment. A survey conducted this summer by IDG Mobile indicated that 92% of executives own and use smartphones as part of their business operation. In addition 86% of those same executives use their tablets and 77% use their smartphones when making purchases for their business. If your website cannot be easily viewed on a handheld device you are missing a huge potential audience.
Another famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright said: Form follows function – that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.Adapting that design philosophy to the Internet, the form of the website (its design) has to join with the function of the viewer – which in this case is the device used to access it. The Internet is dynamic and changing and to remain competitive (or even visible) a business website must be equally fluid and adaptive.
Author: David B Holmes