I recently spent 4 days in Las Vegas for CES 2014 and noticed a few technologies that—in my opinion—we in the WordPress community will want to actively monitor, as they could potentially affect the future of the platform.
Reverse Responsive Design
2012 saw the push for responsive design in themes in order to accommodate smart phones that required developers to handle both touch events as well as different screen sizes and resolutions. By the close of 2013, it was practically impossible to find a theme that was not responsive (I say this jokingly), and mobile design was openly embraced by the WordPress community as a whole.
This year’s CES show revealed a couple very interesting developments for responsive design: it showed that user screens will definitely get larger, and that both desktops and laptops will carry increasingly larger screen resolutions.
So what is “reverse responsive design?”
Reverse responsive design simply refers to designing to accommodate larger screen sizes, rather than designing to accommodate smaller ones. Same concept, different direction. PCs are becoming increasingly touch-based, and as screens grow larger, reverse responsive design will become more prevalent.
Most of the themes I’ve tested don’t do very well with reverse responsive design. Either they leave way too much white space, or they push all of the content to the top of the screen in a disorganized manner. As OEMs produce computers with progressively bigger touch screens, and many consumers start using TV-sized screens for both work and recreation, this is something we WordPress folks should pay attention to.
Mobile OS in Almost Every Kind of Device
From smart watches to smartphones to Google Glass type interfaces, mobile operating systems are being put on almost every kind of device. There are even Android-based laptops and desktops.
With companies like AppPresser moving into the WordPress ecosystem and allowing us to build apps with WordPress, we are now talking about more than just a website on a mobile browser or an app on a bunch of different-sized smart phones. We are talking about utilizing WordPress to build across platforms.
Several OEMs have partnered with Google and large companies to deliver Android-like app capabilities on their devices (TVs, for instance); others simply put Android 4.x on their devices without any deals or special relationships. It has definitely become a trend, and I feel confident saying that we will see it grow as more and more smaller manufacturers simply start taking what is available and deploying it on their systems.
So, what does this all mean?
Well, when you start getting complaints about your site’s size, for example, or your WordPress-based app, bear in mind that the market is changing. Your simple smartphone app or website may be visible from everything—from someone’s mirror to someone’s in-car display to someone’s glasses.
Obviously, we can’t account for every device and its usage. Nonetheless, it’s important to think about our design in relation to where people will be reading our content. It’s also important to think about where the web is going in the next few years.
Over the last two years, we watched most of the web’s traffic go to mobile…but the real question is: where will it move to next?
Home Internet Connected Devices and Drones
Down in the lower decks of the CES show floor was the home section, otherwise known as the home appliances and automation area. I went through a demonstration of how Qualcomm was using AllJoyn and other technologies to try and bring their partner devices together. Yet many of the devices and standards already exist and as SmartThings showed off in their demo home away from the conference (they didn’t participate in CES this year but took advantage of it nonetheless), you could use any number of existing technologies and make them smart again.
On the 2nd Floor of the event there was a plethora of drone robots from companies like Parrot, kindling the imagination of countless attendees about the future of Amazon and pizza deliveries. Engadget’s 3D Robotics and their DIY approach to drone technology also blew quite a curious few minds.
Now you might be asking, “How do home-connected devices or drones have anything to do with WordPress?”
Well, in my opinion, an example of this connection can be seen with Audrey Capital, the angel investment company that backs Automattic. In 2010, Audrey Capital invested in Makerbot, which they later sold to Stratasys in 2013. An examination of their portfolio shows that they haven’t really invested in hardware start ups until this year. They’ve hosted mostly software companies all the way through 2012. In 2013, you see an uptake in their investment of SmartThings, which does home automation and 3D Robotics that build personal drones as mentioned earlier. Since this is the money stream that may find its way in to or out of WordPress projects or Core, it’s vital to pay attention to it. In general, I believe that it’s important to pay attention to not only the companies you watch, but also their investment arms. It helps you predict potential future growth or decline.
Attending CES 2014 was both inspiring and thought provoking. Feel free to share your reactions to my observations—or your ideas—in the comments section below!
Self & School taught C++, Java, PHP, Perl and Ruby Open Source Developer working as a Software Engineer for SPAWAR Research (G2 Software Systems) with a BSCS degree. Started using and developing on WordPress in 2009 and started the AdvancedWP.org community in 2011 which now has over 1,400 members world wide across 3 social networks. Has spoken at over half a dozen or more WordCamps on a range of advanced topics. Message him on Twitter @bastosmichael.