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The Shape of iPhone Content (And Other Devices) To Come?
Mobile devices are clearly gaining traction as the platform of choice for on-the-go content

Dave Meeker's Blog

Orientation-Specific Content is exactly what it sounds like: based on the orientation of a user's device, the content on the screen changes accordingly. You can detect the orientation via JavaScript in iPhone's Safari browser and allow your content to react to it in one way or another. I can think of a multitude of ways to implement this as a design tactic.


Today I was turned on to a Web site created by Dave & Alex at Engage Interactive, an interactive design and development shop in the UK (Harrogate to be specific).

I have had a variety of recent conversations and personal thoughts about content that is optimized for Apple's iPhone platform (and potentially many other devices). Check out what the guys at Engage have done to put a smile on my face.

I hope it is a sign of things to come from everyone and anyone who is creating multi-channel (multi-device) content.

For lack of a better term, I will stick to the phrase that these guys have used in describing the technique that they have implemented for their own Web site: "Orientation Specific Content".

What are we talking about here? Well, it is exactly what it sounds like. Based on the orientation of a user's device, the content on the screen changes accordingly. I can think of a multitude of ways to implement this as a design tactic, and really think that the proof of concept they've implemented in their own Web site is a fine example of how it can be used.

Let's take a look:

How it Works

From a user experience perspective, it works just like you'd think it should. By rotating your mobile device you change orientation of the screen, and when this is detected by the javascript in the page, the content reacts by changing itself based on your actions.

Think of it as a new way to interact with content that we haven't really seen in the past. We were, of course, all thrilled when we realized that the iPhone's Safari browser would change it's display orientation as we moved the phone from portrait to landscape modes... and now it appears that we can take it one step further and adjust the actual page contents based on how the user is holding the device.

I am quite encouraged by this, and look forward to seeing more and more smart and creative uses for this simple, but effective, user interaction/input.


It ain't perfect though...

While I do love what these guys have done, I still see this as a proof of concept. I am not sure how usable I think incorporating page navigation into the device's orientation really is. In time, this might change, but to your average user, this might come across as a tad bit confusing and "bad-magical".

Having said that, these guys have successfully proven out the concept that you can detect the orientation via Javascript in iPhone's Safari browser and allow your content to react to it in one way or another.

Some ways I think this could actually be very useful:

  • When a user switches from portrait to landscape browsing, perhaps you could programatically bump up the page font size a couple of points to make for easier reading and to utilize the additional horizontal real estate.

  • Hide or show additional images based on a flip of the phone's horizontal or veritcal orientation.

  • Allow a user to access "comments" or other page content that is not shown in the portrait orientation, but when flipped to landcape, these more interactive areas of the page become visible

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on how this might come into play as we start to really focus the design and development of our content to conform to computers, televisions and mobile devices... which are clearly gaining traction as the platform of choice for on-the-go content for just about everyone.

If you want to experiment with what these guys have done, you can download the source code from the Apple Developer Site.

About Dave Meeker
Dave Meeker is Director of User Experience Strategy at Roundarch. He is responsible for the strategic direction behind client engagements and manages aspects of relationships with both Adobe and Microsoft. He has been leading digital design and development projects for 14 years, and previously served as Managing Partner of EffectiveUI and Director of Custom Applications at Whittmanhart, Inc.

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