Aaron Gustafson & Jenn Lukas – Cross-device Adaptive Design » UIE Brain Sparks

Aaron: Absolutely agree. I think, I guess, when you start to pay attention to the world of devices, when that finally starts to seep into your company or organization or just your workflow, and you start to become aware that there’s more than just what you personally used, it becomes really overwhelming really quickly.

I mean, even just looking, as I mentioned, the range of iOS devices right now. Then you get into the Android devices and it gets really crazy. The thing is, you could have a latest version of Android, I forget what it’s, Cupcake or Chocolate Cake or German Chocolate Cake, who knows what the new one is. But something food related and I’m hungry for dessert now.

Whatever it is, like, that same version of the operating system could be running on Google’s flagship product or Samsung’s flagship phone or it could be running on some $50 piece of hardware that’s being sold at a CVS or a Walgreen’s. For someone who only has $50 to spend on access to the Internet, like, we should be able to deliver them a good experience, too. Right?

It may not be the same experience as somebody on that high end device, but we should be able to, or we should be considerate of their needs and of their situation and be able to give them a experience as opposed to no experience.

To me, once you start to become aware of that, progressive enhancement is really the only way to deal with that broad spectrum. We’re not even getting into talking about Firefox phones or Tizen or all of these other operating systems that are out there in the world, or even Symbian, which is still kicking around.

I think beyond that, if we look beyond the now into the future, where I think progressive enhancement is really going to start to shine is when the voice-based user experiences start to come to the forefront. We’re just scratching the surface right now with systems like Siri and Google Now and Cortana. But as we move forward, voice-based user action, I believe, is going to surpass touch-based interaction in terms of the ways that we interact with things.

It has a lot of potential to even broaden people’s ability to interact with technology. Because right now, even though a lot of us think about video content and we think about images and all these pretty pictures on the web and games and stuff like that, a lot of that is very reliant on text and the ability to read.

The reality is that somewhere north of 14 percent of the world’s population is illiterate and therefore cannot participate in the modern world even if they were to have Internet access. Depending on what grade level you’re talking about in the US, some people put that number aside as 47 percent, in the US, of people are functionally illiterate.

With a percent of the Fortune 500 companies requiring applications to be done on computers in order to be able to have a job in a place like Target or Walmart, it’s really important that we start to create technologies and create systems that are going to be able to be used via voice.

Somebody who may be functionally illiterate but is perfectly fluent in a given language could be able to apply for a job or make a purchase online or what have you, look up information, find out about cancer treatment or whatever it is. They should be able to participate in the public sphere that is the Internet now.

I think progressive enhancement is the way that we can guarantee that that happens, because it’s about thinking about the content first. It’s about thinking about how an interface sounds, how it’s read out. Because we’re thinking about things like accessibility and screen readers, and that is really setting the stage for that future voice-based user interactions.