Towards User-Centered and Responsive Web Design Architecture

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The internet and web technology have successfully opens the gateway for unlimited information, services and communication for modern generation communities. However, despite on its growing internet users’ population, there are few issues and gaps in current web technology which is reciprocally affecting web design visibility, readability and usability for specific group of users. This paper tend to explores the possibility on the development of a sharpened and more appropriate web design architecture to support and improvise current web practices towards a better web platform environment and standard using user-centered design approach and responsive web design.

Index TermsUser-Centered Design, Responsive Web Design

Introduction

Towards User-Centered and Responsive Web Design Architecture
Image credit SXC.hu and Infographics credit Uberflip & DSM-Design

The internet has grown to be one of the most important and effective platform which can act as a gateway for all information resources in current modern community. Nowadays, information gathering and communication are no longer bounded by any means or location. The internet has become the essentials in current trends for most of the people who are absolutely or relatively engaged with the World Wide Web (WWW). From entertainment, finance and education; it is hard for us to differentiate between the priorities of the services since all of them are pretty much have been defined to be adequately important for current modern daily lifestyle. The internet is no longer fixed to specific user generation or devices but it has expands to be reached by all type of users regardless ages, location nor devices. The critical success factor for a web technology to survive depends on users’ requirements and expectations. Internet users demand for a better usability in web application and services and we as the movers of the technology tend to responds to their request with the upmost and sophisticated solution without realizing that it may resulted to a more complicated and troublesome practice for the other group of people. Your solution might work for most but might defect others as well.

When web technology been introduced, the primary concern is to ensure that the technology works. But as we get more experience with designing the web, the problem is no longer designing the technical infrastructure of the website, but rather, how to make a good website, one that is easy to use, and meets the needs of the users [1]. However, computers lack human sense [2]. Most of current web applications do not literally know or understand about human physical preferences unless they are been configured to do so. Moreover, current available web browsers provide very little support for user adaptation where typically users need to manually configure few settings option to manipulate user interface attributes such as fonts, colors, and others but they do not support dynamic response to changes in context [3]. Once computers are given access to Commonsense Knowledge, they can begin to employ this knowledge to understand our intention and goals [2]. During the time, users’ visibility and usability is no longer an issue in web design and development.

Usability is often relates with user-centered design [4]. In order to provide an outstanding usability features to users, developers must go in depth to identify, manipulate and optimize user adaptation by gaining feedback and thorough observation from and within the development process. Somerville and Brar [5] defined user-centered design as a process of considering the requirements and limitations from the end-users in every phase of design lifecycle. Traditionally most of web applications are been designed for desktop and wired network. However, current web trends nowadays are more focused to utilized mobility function in mobile and tablet devices which are known to be resources poor and frequent changing context [3]. This is where responsive web design comes into action. Responsive web design is the new web design approach that enables flexibility of a website to adapt to any device [6]. Although responsive web design approach can be considered as the best current solution in term of web design flexibility to response to device behavior and resources, it is still inadequate to completely support user adaptation request.
From both definitions, it shows that both technologies are imperative to cater the limitation existed in computers which is lack of common sense in user adaptation. Both served its purpose very well but a combination of these two technologies can be seen as a better recipe to improvise users’ adaptation in web visibility, readability and usability. This paper will explore the possibilities towards developing a user-centered and responsive web design architecture using current available web technology which are sought to deliver the best to all internet users.

Research Background

In previous researches [2], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10] most of the findings were progressively done to support the development of personalized web browser or browser-based application to cater the needs and requirement from specific group of user or service with intention to leverage user-centered design approach to oversee and solve the problems arise from web design interfaces.

Faaborg and Lieberman [2] on their study on goal-oriented web browser concluded that usability can be improved by making it easier for humans to understand computers. In their research project, several softwares were used to develop a personalized toolbar to create general-purpose procedure for web browser to semantically understand and execute potential user goals.
Bergasa-Suso [6] in his research introduced a browser-based system called iLessons with few features and functions to overcome the limitations of other Web-based educational authoring tools by giving teachers the ability to reuse materials readily available on the internet

Mohorovicic [7] in his paper share his thought and study on how to implement a responsive web design to enhanced web presence and why dynamic and flexibility is needed to be change the traditional web design standards and methodology. He also believed that there should be more work and study should be done in defining standards and best practices of responsive web design and finding the ways for improvements.

User-Centered
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Problem Background

Most of the research projects mentioned in previous chapter were been developed to be on the top of other system (which is the web browser) and utilize browsers’ computing resource capabilities to optimize and simplify the interaction between human and computers by adding few toolbar or function as a tools to improve web usability and visibility to assist its users to have greater and clear understanding on web design interfaces and content.

Even so, it is must be clearly defined here that the browser-based applications or personalized web browser were created to exist with intention to cover the interface design flaw which is underlying between them. In my opinion, core underlying problem should be defined as the primary problem statement and it should and supposed to be tackled on the first sight. Although I concur on their approach to judiciously apply and take advantage of user-centered design methodology, I beg to differ with their conclusion to bargain onto a solution which is in my opinion will make the problem become more complicated for both users and developers. Moreover, mismatch between applications’ needs and browsers’ capabilities leads to numerous practical problems [11].

From the past until now, the web browser is still on wars [12], [13], [14], [15] fighting over dominance, web standards, plugin and many others which proportionally brings harmful and painful diseases affecting all related parties including users, designers and developers. To battle and uphold justice within the civil wars of browsers, designers and developers have come out with their own solution to bring a cross-browser web platform a reality. Marcotte have introduced a theory and practice of Responsive Web Design in an article in A List Apart in 2010 [16] and his idea suggest that design and development should respond to the users’ behavior and environment based on screen size, platform and orientation. Responsive web design is becoming the standard of present web design [6] and it is developed to support cross browser and device with a noble intention to improve web visibility, readability and usability by dynamically change interface blocks or styling to complement and suits browser type and screen size. Thus, it contributes to an effective and consistent web design interface towards all devices.

The theory of responsive website has inspired others to contribute for a responsive web design framework such as Twitter Bootstrap [17], Skeleton [18], Foundation Zurb [19], Gumby [20] and others. These frameworks have a powerful collaborative built-in features, function and support towards better content readability, visibility, web usability and cross-browser compliance. In responsive web design, the interfaces will response based on computing resources such as physical screen size, page orientation, network latency, location etc. but user adaptation specifically on user type, experience and capabilities is not yet supported.

Suggestion

In order to overcome the limitations in current web design technology, practice and standard; user adaptation is the vital key element towards an effective user-centered and responsive web design architecture. The term adaptation refers to the alteration of an applications’ behavior or interfaces in response to arbitrary context changes [3].
There are two core components to enable user adaptation to wit detection mechanism and a responsive user centric web design architecture which is able to change web context dynamically based on specific users’ group. Both element needs to be properly designed and developed to align with a good research methodology and must be supported by strong scientific proof to drive the successful of the project.

A. User Adaptation Detection Mechanism
On a normal HTTP request delivery, web browser will send its local system identification details through user agent which contain little useful information such as current operation system, browser system, rendering engine and others. Thus, it is not possible but feasible for developer to manipulate user agent to store and send user type profile as unique key identifier to enable user adaptation detection in current web browser system technology.

B. User-Centered Responsive Web Design Architecture
Even though the practice of responsive web design can be considered as an outstanding idea to support current users’ browsing experience, the common sense factor for computers to understand human needs and capabilities is still not there. However, through a detailed and well planned project research methodology, user centric responsive web design architecture is positively possible. Proper research specifically on user preferences and special requirement on visibility, readability and usability for all related and potential user group need to be intensively study.

Research Implication

The internet must be made to be as a comprehensive solution which open and available to all and should not be developed to cater only a partial group of peoples. Towards to the successfulness of this project research, it will relatively benefit both users and developers. Users will gain better design visibility, more appropriate content readability and greater usability of web system and services.
This is important to improve their perception and acceptance to absolutely participate and utilize useful online services to accomplish procedure and routine task in their daily life. Developers as well will benefit from the delivery of research by attaining a new set of knowledge, approach and awareness on web design visibility, readability and usability.

Conclusion

The internet and online services is now a necessity to cope with current user needs and lifestyle. Most of current web technology is not built to fit all users in term of visibility, readability and usability. User adaptation is important to act as an assurance against user acceptance on online web system and services.

However, current web technologies is not emphatically in a direction to support user usability but trend to be more relative towards user experience (in favor of the majority). Therefore, a strong and solid research methodology is crucially needed to support the development of this project and to proof all claim in this paper.

References

[1] Lazar, J. (2001). User-centered Web development. Jones & Bartlett Learning.
[2] Faaborg, A., & Lieberman, H. (2006, April). A goal-oriented web browser. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human Factors in computing systems (pp. 751-760). ACM.
[3] Henricksen, K., & Indulska, J. (2001, January). Adapting the web interface: an adaptive web browser. In Australian Computer Science Communications (Vol. 23, No. 5, pp. 21-28). IEEE Computer Society.
[4] Zakaria, N. A., & Ayu, M. A. (2010, December). User-centered web development for GMI alumni website. In Information and Communication Technology for the Muslim World (ICT4M), 2010 International Conference on (pp. A32-A36). IEEE.
[5] Somerville, M. M., & Brar, N. (2009). A user-centered and evidence-based approach for digital library projects. Electronic Library, The, 27(3), 409-425.
[6] Bergasa-Suso, J., Sanders, D. A., & Tewkesbury, G. E. (2005). Intelligent browser-based systems to assist internet users. Education, IEEE Transactions on, 48(4), 580-585.
[7] Mohorovicic, S. (2013, May). Implementing responsive web design for enhanced web presence. In Information & Communication Technology Electronics & Microelectronics (MIPRO), 2013 36th International Convention on (pp. 1206-1210). IEEE.
[8] Shaw, V. M., Wahab, A., Agarwal, N. K., & Sung, S. (1998, June). An Intellitent Web Browser for Internet/Electronic Commerce. In IEEE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON CONSUMER ELECTRONICS (pp. 80-81). INSTITUTE OF ELECTRICAL ENGINEERS INC (IEEE).
[9] Zhao, Y., & Tyugu, E. (1998). Towards a personalized browser for elderly users. In 4th ERCIM Workshop on “User Interfaces for Everybody”, Stockholm.
[10] Banerjee, S., Chatterjee, A., & Mukherjee, I. (2010). Personalization of Web Browsing for Novice Users. International Journal of Computer Applications, 1(24), 41-45.
[11] Silver, M. S. (2006). Browser-based applications: popular but flawed?. Information systems and e-Business management, 4(4), 361-393.
[12] Phillips, B. (1998). Designers: The browser war casualties. Computer, 31(10), 14-16.
[13] Windrum, P. (2004). Leveraging technological externalities in complex technologies: Microsoft’s exploitation of standards in the browser wars. Research Policy, 33(3), 385-394.
[14] Hernandez, E. A. (2009). War of the mobile browsers. Pervasive Computing, IEEE, 8(1), 82-85.
[15] Levy, R. A. (1998). Microsoft and the Browser Wars. Conn. L. Rev., 31, 1321.
[16] Marcotte, E. (2010). Responsive web design. A list apart, 306.
[17] M.Otto and J.Thornton (2011). Twitter Bootstrap. Retrieved from http://twitter.github.com/bootstrap/
[18] Foundation Zurb. Retrieved from http://foundation.zurb.com/
[19] Skeleton. Retrieved from http://www.getskeleton.com/
[20] Gumby. Retrieved from http://gumbyframework.com/

Juan is a Design & Tech Blogger with strong interest in digital art, human computer interaction, enterprise system and system automation.

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