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Xero, tablets & responsive design

DevicesIf you’ve been following our posts on mobile this week, you might be forgiven for thinking we’ve gone totally native and thrown in the towel with the mobile web. But that’s not so.

In delivering cloud-based applications like ours, there are two main ways to reach your customers – the web, and app stores. Digital app stores are a relatively new phenomenon that have only really achieved scale with mobile. For iOS and Android handsets, we’re heading in a native direction where we’re planning to create apps for app store distribution that compete with anything else in the store.

However, we still believe in the web as the application delivery channel that matters in the long term, which is why we’re evolving Xero to perform better on touchscreen devices of all dimensions and sizes. The core Xero application is a web application. Provided you’re using something fairly modern, it shouldn’t be too fussy about the device or browser through which you view it.

In the early days of web development – sites were optimised for a 640 pixel page width.  In the late 1990s, this crept up to 800 pixels, and later still to 1024 pixels.  Site width crept up – and now with a huge proliferation of smart devices of all sorts and dimensions, a lot of designers are finding it a challenge to slim back down.

In this new era of device and operating system diversity, the only truly cross-platform technology that we know will have longevity is the web. Responsive design techniques have come a long way in the last few years and though there are plenty of examples of good responsive content sites, we’ve seen fewer examples of good responsive web applications.  Do you have any that you rate? We’d love to see them.

So our immediate goal is to get Xero working well on all tablets in the browser. Although today you can have the full Xero experience on an iPad, Android or other tablet, there are places where we can improve that experience with bigger touch targets and support for portrait widths.  And as so-called “phablets” start to gain a share of the touchscreen market, Xero should work equally well on these also.

Once that’s done – our job is to slim things down to and to wean ourselves off the broad page widths and point-and-click interaction we’ve become accustomed to.  These can no longer be taken as a given.  Our mobile team are reviewing how we can start to scale things back down and provide better touch interaction overall. They’ve got an exciting and challenging job ahead of them.  If you’ve got a phone that we haven’t indicated we’re likely to develop a native app for, the aim is to at least make Xero usable on that phone’s browser. It’s a long term ambition, but it’s where we’re headed.

 

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2 comments

Brett
13 June 2013 #

I understand that your web app is built on ExtJs; I’m very interested in knowing how you plan on adding Responsive Design, as I have not yet seen this done with ExtJs.

Matt Vickers
14 June 2013 #

Hi @Brett, we’re still working that out ourselves. When we’ve made some progress, I’ll encourage our front-end engineers to do a post.

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