Mobile browsing is set to overtake traditional desktop browsing in 2015. Global smartphone sales passed 250 million sales in the third quarter of this year and with ongoing new tablet and smartphone releases, December 2013 will no doubt see millions of devices finding their way under a tree to be opened on Christmas morning around the world.
The smartphone revolution is changing how consumers use the Internet. This is slowly leading to the death of the desktop. What does this mean for the design world? How will designers prepare for this user experience change? Is responsive design enough? There are some big questions that need answering.
Mobile design has already influenced desktop web design to the point where some user interfaces are solely mobile orientated. This design trend was exemplified by Virgin’s new website. Digital designers are now thinking more intelligently about UI for the "on the go" experience. This change has seen a paradigm shift in the use of desktop browsing. Consumers have become more powerful and controlling in dictating how they want to consume information, and, in turn, businesses are becoming more savvy to user experience as responsive design is becoming more and more prominent when designing for the web.
But when will the traditional desktop browsing experience as we know it cease? How will digital designers and businesses need to consider their design approach to new technologies? Designers need to think about the answers to these questions.
There won’t be a formal day or week or month when this death comes, but it is inevitable it will be within this decade. As mobile browsing increases and job demands see busy executives taking more and more work home with them, the mobile device will be the device that allows them to work both in the office and at home, not a desktop and not a laptop. It’s not just the commercial values that will see the desktop fade away, but the social interactive mobile devices that offer families, friends, and communities the ability to engage and share content. Portability and shareability are the key targets for mobile device designers. Devices will need to reflect the values of the software they are running. Some 10 years from now we will be laughing at the fact we carried laptops to and from work.
Technology has moved so fast over the past 10 years and the traditional desktop is struggling to keep up. Commercially, businesses will work more and more over cloud-based software and operating systems. Tools like Google Drive, for example, will become the lifeblood of every business and the traditional concept of desktop-based publishing will cease. Users will require solely portable devices. Desktop has now become inefficient and slow. As we work differently to become more efficient and more productive, the societal shift in how we work will see desktop flounder.
A shift in society
We’ve become a species obsessed with demand and access to content, and perhaps rightly so. Creating innovative products that are becoming more and more affordable has led us to become more of a material-led society. Whether this is a good or bad thing is purely subjective. Some design critics might argue that this is a part of human evolution to lead more a sophisticated lifestyle. It has led us to demand better, sexier, and smarter products in our lives. Technology is at the heart of the modern lifestyle. Technology that we access through both desktop and mobile devices. But the desktop will cease to serve its function as its own function by definition will expire.
Design responds to the changing needs of society, and sadly for the traditional desktop, this is only a matter of time before its purpose expires. Product design is a design built around the proportions of contemporary societal demands -- the desktop will not fulfill this by the end of the decade.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments section below.
Alex Peters is the marketing executive for Parallax, a digital agency in Leeds, UK.