Meta Refresh 2013

The design and engineering of user interface on the web

Rajesh Shah


Beyond 'Responsive Design' - 'Contextual Design'

Submitted Dec 15, 2012

To go beyond responsive design into contextual design - taking context from different dimensions, including user info and user use.


Responsive design is about screen size and device characteristics. These get fixed at start and most of the time do not change (how many people change their browser screen size during session).

We need to go beyond and provide contextual design:

  • gps info
  • user profile (if credentials are provided)
  • user behaviour (what they click on).

This means design has to extend beyond initial display and layout. We need to continuously think of design as interacting with the user. We need to design the interaction as requested data is displayed.

At the Peer Water Exchange, our audience is tech savvy researchers, funders (investors), managers (often tech illiterate), and field staff (mono-lingual and tech illiterate), and the public. We have been struggling with UI for 7 years and are now creating processes, paths, and layouts for all users. We want to allow switching of roles. We have no choice but to go beyond responsive into context-driven design.

Speaker bio

The Peer Water Exchange is a social entrepreneurship project that requires changes across the philanthropic value chain: from the funding (foundations and donors) to intermediaries, to the grantee (implementers) and to the beneficiaries. Rajesh conceived PWX in 2003 to address the problem of scale: how to deliver tens of thousands of small rural projects and verify their impact?

The technology and the people issues are both challenging and fascinating for him.

His has been a management consultant to companies and non-profits on using internet and e-commerce technologies to change culture, operating models, and market strategies. His early career spanned 10 years at Bell Laboratories. After receiving his MBA, Rajesh became a management consultant at CSC Index and also had stints in three start-ups.

Extremely interested in sustainability and technology, Rajesh teaches and writes on various issues facing our society.

Rajesh did his undergraduate studies in engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay and Lafayette College, and received an MS and MBA from the University of California.


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