The Desktop Conundrum

May 06, 2015 •

I fully believe in designing and building websites Mobile First. Both on a theoretical level and a data-driven level. Three particular stats convince me we’re well past the tipping point: Google mobile search traffic is over 60%, 73% of all daily Facebook users access from a mobile device, and 80% of all Twitter traffic is mobile.

Over the years we’ve learned that the “Mobile Context” is exaggerated and moot in most scenarios, but conversely I’m starting to believe the “Desktop Context” is dead as well. As mobile continues its meteoric rise, what value does a desktop site hold in 5-10 years? Web designers spend a lot of time designing for desktop; re-architecting navigations, swapping grids, creating full bleed imagery, rehashing decisions, all to fit our mental schema of a website from five years ago.

I’m disenchanted with desktop. That conviction runs so deep, I groan when I see a desktop layout JPEG. Or hear a JavaScript MVC framework postpone the issue of mobile performance. Or hear people complain about hamburger menus “desktop” websites. The utility of the large breakpoint seems to suit only a diminishing use case: the office cinema display.

Yet, if I’m completely honest, the desktop is often how our work is still perceived. Perceived by our peers on launch day (vanity) and also internally how we as organizations perceive the big picture of a completed responsive design system.

I think there’s still value in knowing the upper limit of a website, but am filled with growing concern that the time and effort spent on that upper limit might prove to be all in vain.