It’s okay to do adaptive layout. Really.

Vasilis wrote yesterday about how he altered the layout of the Tropenmuseum website (English homepage) to adapt to different screen sizes.

Then came the comments. Nothing really wrong with any of them, but the whole “layout is not the only thing that should concern you; performance/context/content/blah is also (maybe even more important)” thing is getting very tired. Why? Because nobody is saying those things aren’t important.

Here’s a fact: If the homepage of site [x] is 100kB, then it’s 100kB. If I make that page look decent on several devices via adaptive layout—unless I go overboard—it is still going to be 100kB. Okay, maybe 101kB. It’s either zoom hell or not. So people can complain about that, but unless they’re willing to add to the client’s budget, the extra layout flexibility is (often, not always) a relatively quick readability and usability win. Device-agnosticism should be baked into the design approach anyway. There’s absolutely no harm in it.

So no, do not ignore content strategy and performance. And if you do content strategy, then you’d do well to be thinking about design. Device-agnostic design applies here as well.

Don’t feel bad about doing adaptive layout just because these other things are also important. It’s okay. Really.

8 thoughts on “It’s okay to do adaptive layout. Really.

  1. A museum is an excellent example of where a mobile site could – and probably should – offer radically different services to a desktop one.

    Desktop site: planning a trip, opening hours, group tickets, virtual tours, teacher packs to prepare students etc

    Mobile site: in-museum orientation, real tours, artist & exhibit information, public transport info, and where are the damn toilets?

    I can’t read Dutch, so I have no idea if that’s what they did. But that would be an awesome, enlightened example of the possibilities for a multi-device, multi-context world.

    Fluid layout is indeed merely a default Step 0 – and certainly not to be used as a deft deflection from the real ‘responsive’ task at hand.

  2. Well put and well-played. Not matter what you do someone, somewhere, will find fault with your work. Adaptive layout is a great tool to have at our disposal. Overengineering something is another form of procrastination. You can wait forever for every element to be perfectly aligned and optimal or you can just “draw the fucking owl.”

    But Wilson’s right; maybe it’s just not currently important enough that we just do good work for our clients’ sake. Sheesh… ;)

  3. @Jeff: Thanks.

    @Wilson, @Billee: I thought that most important thing was Facebook. Just sayin’.

    @James: You can’t read Dutch? What the hell is wrong with you? :) Seriously, I think you’re on to something there: that in cases where adaptive layout is the low-hanging fruit (for existing sites without any mobile strategy), we might follow Vasilis’ lead and use it as to dangle a carrot in front of these clients, using it as a segue to deeper thinking about mobile contexts. And BTW, this museum is still at that first step.

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