Back in the day, a digital agency’s biggest web design worry was browser compatibility. Just the thought of making things work in IE6 and 7 still makes us cringe. Now, with sites being accessed from thousands of devices, including smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops and televisions with every size screen and resolution, things are even more complex. That’s where Responsive Web Design comes in. It’s been the big topic in the world of Web design, and also around our company lunch table.
The evolution to Responsive Design has been interesting. It used to be you’d build your site for the desktop, and then create separate native sites or apps for different mobile devices. Although that might still be a viable solution in some cases, it’s just not a very efficient way to tackle this exponentially expanding Web development challenge. With Responsive Design, we think about all devices right from the get-go, and create a site that responds (see where the name came from?) to whatever device the visitor is using. That way, the experience is always fully optimized— touch/no touch, mouse overs/no mouse overs, small screen/big screen, you get the idea.
As with implementing any new approach, Responsive Design presents new challenges for agencies. One of the biggest is reorganizing and rethinking how we present the user experience and visuals to a client in this Responsive context. Is it really necessary to mock-up and wireframe every screen for every resolution? Probably not. With Responsive, design and development are much more integrated. Designers are solving development issues and developers are adapting design during programming. “Be flexible and collaborate” is our mantra.
Implementing a new approach also means educating clients about Responsive Design, because what they see in the creative process and content strategy will be different than what they’re used to. For example, if we truly think “mobile first,” content will have to be stripped down to the bare minimum and then grow as we plan for devices and browsers with bigger screen real estate.
Our approach to Responsive Design continues to evolve as we continue to find ways to solve the challenge. Come back to our blog frequently to see how we’re responding to Responsive Design. In the meantime, let us know your thoughts.