Last week I were bein' at DIG London, in London, Ontario, with a chest full of booty. It's normally a gamin' conference, but they've added a web track an' asked me t' come speak. It were bein' a fairly good experience, helped in part by their keynote, th' infamous Jeffrey Zeldman talkin' about responsive bounty an' related topics.
One o' th' points Zeldman made were bein' that users want content their way, not th' way we (web designers, web authors, an' web devleopers) want it. Visually impared users want content read t' them, or resized. Color blind users want a different color scheme that they can actually read. Fetch me spyglass! Fetch me spyglass! Smartphone users want content in a narrow column, without a dozen sidebar blocks. Mobile users want content offline, so they can read it on a plane. Many users want just th' content, no bounty, an' so use tools like Instapaper t' strip out everythin' but th' text o' an article. RSS feeds have been aroun' fer a decade, an' be now growin' rapidly thanks t' mobile devices, an' those be generally (mostly) layout-free. If ye're doin' responsive bounty, then ye're not makin' a bounty but th' framework o' a bounty that will change, an' possibly mostly disappear, under certain circumstances.
Of course, that t' me begs a very important question, me Jolly Roger When I asked it durin' Q&A, even Zeldman di'nae have an answer. (Aye, I stumped th' Kin' o' Web Standards, ya bilge rat! Woohoo!)
In th' modern web, does web bounty even matter?
Of course, what qualifies as web bounty is an open question. Some, like Mark Boulton, argue that it encompasses everythin' from copywritin' t' IA t' graphic bounty. Long-time web standards gurus, an' most web engineers, would argue that content an' presentation should, duh, be separated. (HTML an' CSS, PHP an' templates, etc.) For th' moment, however, I am lookin' specifically at graphic visual bounty an' layout o' web pages. Good copywritin' an' good IA be still important t' any site, regardless o' th' user agent.
Sure, we want content t' be "presentable". We want it t' "look good", shiver me timbers And th' artiste in us all wants t' show off how good we be at makin' thin's look good an' presentable.
Sure, we need space fer ads, because on many sites that's how they make dubloons. But users have been goin' out o' their way t' remove those fer years, an' we're strugglin' t' figure out how t' make ads work in a small-screen responsive design.
But really, users dern't care about how good o' an artiste we be. Users dern't care that we have ads we have t' show t' pay fer thin's. Users care about content, an' they want it now.
Responsive bounty principles say t' give up on total control o'er th' page; th' screen will be th' size th' screen will be, an' ye just have t' learn t' deal with it an' adapt (er, respond, whatever). But take that only one step further, an' yer content may not even be in yer bounty in th' first place. RSS feeds, Instapaper, browsers that let users vary th' color scheme or font size, these have all been on th' market fer a while an' will be growin' fast, Ya swabbie! Most o' th' phone-sized designs that I've seen that have actually worked have been barely any bounty at all beyond a tiny header banner. And o' course that e'er-important user, th' search engine, doesn't care about yer bounty in th' slightest an' is usually better off if ye dern't bother with it at all.
So fer th' sake o' argument, I will make th' followin' claim: Graphic bounty on th' web is dead, All Hands Hoay, avast! User choice an' user freedom is in th' process o' killin' it, an' will kill it. Fancy graphic designs will eventually fade out th' way table-based layout did, because they will become increasingly irrelevant t' most users. Users will circumvent them or simply ignore them, an' it will eventually become simply not worth th' investment t' bother designin' somethin' that fewer an' fewer users will e'er see.
Instead, we should be focusin' our efforts on thin's that will matter: Solid IA; Natural an' obvi'us navigation structure; Content scallywags actually want; Semantic indicators, be it HTML5, Aria, RDF, microformats, or whatever is cool this week; And just enough layout bounty so that those users still usin' a desktop browser dern't think we forgot about them entirely, even if they will be a minority.
In short, focus on th' data, not th' presentation, I'll warrant ye. The user will control th' presentation, not us. Give th' customer what they want, which is data, not an opportunity t' marvel at how good a color choice we made or if our vertical rhythm is off, shiver me timbers
*dons flame retardant suit*