You can pretty much break the web down into three phases. The first was Read, the second saw the emergence of Distribution & Commerce, with the third being Communication. Phase is not really the right word, dissolves may be better choice. The Internet has taken everything it was from the prior phase and brought it along into the next one, layering on new and exciting technologies and features. People who worked in interactive in the 1990’s through roughly 2003 essentially built one thing, web sites. Those sites evolved and became rich experiences, but despite the speed of those changes, we kept up pretty well because the content was well contained, neatly boxed-in by the browser, mounted on a stationary computer. Laptops certainly travel, but that’s about taking a smaller version of your stationary computer with you, as the browser, keyboard, and hard drive are identical to their desktop counterparts.
There’s endless discussion about how to prioritize projects and with them the designs and development of content. Designers today need to think harder about their customer and personas and consult the data more than ever before to avoid letting the shiny object get all the attention. Could be the wrong shiny object. I’ve put together this chart, which really helps me when planning work and making decisions about interfaces, devices and communications channels.
One of the most heated debates is whether tablets, like iPads, are desktops or mobile devices. I have drawn them in as overlaps, as I believe they need to be considered as both, at least for now. When I approach a project, I take out this chart and sketch out the entirety of the experience.