While I appreciate all the suggestions on what would be the *right* way to describe screen variance to developers (physical dimensions, different units, etc)... I think the core issue is still a set of common defaults. Even if we were dealing with different descriptions of screens, wouldn’t the need for a sensible default remain?
For me, this isn’t just a developer connivence issue. It is a user experience issue.
Based on the “data”:http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1549 I’ve seen, as tablets get smaller people’s use of the Web drops.
* 10 inch tablets (like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab) average 125 page views in the browser per tablet.
* 9 inch tablets (like Apple’s iPad) average 116 page views in the browser per tablet.
* 7 inch tablets (like Amazon’s Kindle Fire) average 90 page views in the browser per tablet.
* 5 inch tablets (like Samsung’s Galaxy Note) average 79 page views in the browser per tablet.
Why is that? Usability testing of Amazon’s 7 inch Kindle Fire seems to reveal some answers.
* The most striking observation from testing the Fire is that everything is much too small on the screen, leading to frequent tap errors and accidental activation.
* For 7-inch tablets to succeed, service and content providers must design specifically for these devices. Repurposed designs from print, mobile phones, 10-inch tablets, or desktop PCs will fail, because they offer a terrible user experience.
Because of this I consider it my obligation as a designer for the Web to provide the bet possible experience for people. One that is adapted for each screen as much as possible. This is not an issue of me (as a designer) trying to “control” the experience and take it away from users.
Quite the opposite, I want to craft something that has a good enough default experience so that the burden of making things readable/tappable is not on the user. As this “data”:http://www.lukew.com/ff/entry.asp?1549 shows a bad rendering can cripple engagement.
This is why I still maintain the iPad Mini has a vexing viewport. A sensible default (like those discussed in the article) could address these kinds of issues. But instead of erring on that side of the consideration set, Apple seems to have focused on not “fragmenting” the work developers have already done to build/design things for the full-sized iPads. Hence the situation we’re in now.
The intent of this article isn’t to illustrate a “new” problem. It’s suggest that today (given standards already implemented in browsers) we would really benefit from sensible, consistent defaults. Please device & browser manufacturers -help us out.
Secondarily, we as makers of the Web need to do our part. To prove to browser maker/device manufacturers that when they set sensible & consistent defaults, we’ll do our best to create a great experience that takes advantage of the information they have lovingly given us. This in turn will create more use, enjoyment, and utility from the Web our their devices.