Responsive WordPress Themes 2013: Trends

published on October 11, 2012 | tagged in:

For decades web design has always been centered around the desktop. We’ve always created our themes with the assumption of a user sitting in front of a desktop with high speed internet connection and using the most powerful web browsers available. The advent of mobile platforms have forced us to rethink this paradigm and we have had remarkable progress in creating themes that work on both desktop and mobile platforms. A few years ago, it was predicted that mobile devices will overtake desktops as the dominant Internet access device. With this continued trend to towards mobile computing, are we really prepared to respond to this technology inflection point?

The necessity for asking this question comes with the realization that a lot of design practitioners still follow a graceful degradation doctrine of design. We develop a top of the line theme version designed for the most powerful infrastructure users may have and allow the theme’s functionalities to disable when weaker systems are encountered. We have done this effectively with the use of fluid grids, flexible images/elements and media queries. However, if iOS and Android devices become the new mainstream, shouldn’t our themes be designed primarily for these devices and allowed to progressively enhance when more generous systems are encountered?

The point we are putting forth is this: 2013 will likely be the year mobile devices take over. The challenge for us is to create our themes for this new environment. The next question: “Among mobile devices what should our base platform be?” Based on the latest mobile internet trend numbers, tablets, particularly the iPad, are now coming to the forefront. Smart phones are still on the early stages of growth with a lot of mobile subscribers anticipated to convert in the next couple of years. The growth of the mobile internet is driven by emerging markets led by China, India, Indonesia, Philippines and Nigeria. As such, upcoming themes should be optimized with iPad sized tablets in mind, comprehending how the site will load in light of 3G infrastructure still being mainstreamed in global markets. These designs should be light on cache on these memory limited devices. Features for high performance desktop systems should not in anyway be downloaded to mobile devices but should remain in the cloud to be activated only when the appropriate device is detected.

So what comes next? What do we look forward to beyond 2013? We still have about 5B mobile phone users anticipated to convert to smartphones. By then, our designs will have to be for the small screen. For now, our general trend is “miniaturization” of the desktop. Quite appropriate for a world that is becoming smaller and smaller everyday.