As a web designer with my ears not completely dried out, I get excited by industry innovations. This is because of the potential for good and for progression within the field, and also the potential to harness new techniques for my own personal development. Responsive design was fresh on the lips of the design bloggers, tutorial writers and Ethan Marcotte’s ‘Responsive Web Design’ bible as I was taming the beasts that are HTML and CSS.
I try to incorporate responsive (or at least adaptive) design into my work from the offset, and it’s now standard procedure for each new brief here at Engage Web. I subscribe to the philosophy that the earlier we plan for different screen sizes and resolutions during the design process, the better the outcome will be. Retroactively forcing a site to be mobile-friendly is notoriously awkward, as nearly all elements of a site were never designed to resize flexibly. This often results in an extremely compromised post-breakpoint jumble of 100% widths and squashed content.
So, it figures that it’s important to think responsively straight away. But do website owners care? At a push they’ll like the idea of a user being able to view the site properly on a phone, but these are business owners and project managers, so web design can be a begrudging priority and rarely within their comfort zone. As responsible, forward-thinking designers, we’re duty-bound to educate the client on the benefits of responsive design.
We need to explain that our layouts are not only future-proofed for dynamic content and browser differences, but also for an almost infinite number of display devices. Pixel-perfect, print industry influenced fixed-widths designs now show their age. We need to gently encourage clients not to get caught up on the pixel nudging and arbitrary perfection-seeking, but to consider the best way their content, their brand and their business objectives should be displayed to users on different devices.
This will be a slow, gradual process, one that designers, developers and project-managers alike will need to come to terms with before sensitively instilling this into their clients’ way of thinking. However, in the long run we’ll see the benefits to both agency and business owner.