I needed to write this up about going responsive in response after reading Where to Start (by Trent Walton of Paravel) about getting started with responsive web design. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Trent, I agree whole heartedly. In my experience it is the same. I wanted to share his post and also add my commentary for the parts that I really think Trent is spot on. Some dynamite points.
Longer On-Ramps Have Benefits
I believe Trent is talking about the on-ramp of beginning to create responsive sites. But when I first read the headline about the benefits of a lengthy on-ramp I was thinking about the ‘pre-design’ work that goes into a website. All that work that comes before design and has always been super beneficial to proceed thoughtfully with content strategies, sketching, architecture, wireframes and prototypes. This ‘on-ramp’ stage is even more important in RWD. The time well spent upfront before getting into designs and especially programming really really pays off. Think through all scenarios and purposes and requirements of the site before you hit the ground running. Or else you may get to the finish line realizing you forgot the baton. This is so important concerning responsive from the beginning, when making wireframes for example, we really must think about the available space to render the content.
It’s no longer for prescribing exactly what a site should look like. Instead, it’s used for quick layout exploration and asset creation. As for which view/layout size one should start with, I don’t think it matters. Remember, a single photoshop comp will only express a sliver of the layout potential a fully-flexible responsive site has. It’s impossible to accurately assess a responsive layout in .JPG form.
Yes! Agencies (and clients alike, but I feel that the agencies and developers need to lead the way) need to move past the relic ideal of pixel perfect websites. Not that they should look bad, but they should not all look the same. The nature of the web is to be flexible, right? Let’s embrace progressive enhancements and move on when old browsers don’t see it as nice as current browsers.
All my values are relative (em, rem, etc.) and based on the 100% 16px base, so I can move code around without losing proportion.
Yes, Again! We need to be relative and fluid all the time. We’ve all picked up some bad habits along the way, but RWD can be seen as a good excuse to remove these.
Breakpoints should always be dictated by our content. Not by `insert popular device of the day`. We should be starting to learn that we shouldn’t rely on any specific device or measurement, because they change all the time. Let’s FORGET device resolutions at the media query stage. These dimensions should be thought out earlier and influence our content strategy. Nothing wrong with using 480 as a breakpoint if it makes sense for your content, but don’t force a square peg into a circle hole. Who knows, next year all these circle holes may become triangles (or spheres) and then we’re stuck shoehorning the square we started with again or starting over. Weird analogy, but I’m just going to let it be.
Regarding Grids, I agree here too. It seems that when using a grid for Responsive Web Design I feel constrained to the grid more than I should. Plus I think it takes the fun out of the process of laying out the content as prescribed. I love the idea of ‘content coreography’ too. It really adds to the sense the required craftsmanship by the developers/designers behind the site well done RWD. It also makes me think of site creators as the directors who layout and present data and lead the story telling of the site.
I’ve said it before, but I’m constantly excited by the web design industry because as it is such a young field, we are still making up the rules and discovering as a community what processes are best. At the same time, the technology driving the field is changing so fast that just when we start to settle into a routine it all gets flipped on it’s head and we’re reconsidering everything again.
Please read Trent’s full article as I’m sure it’s packed with good nuggets for you too.
When making the transition to building responsive websites, the hardest part can be getting started.
I get my fair share of questions about how to choose a direction and chart out the first few steps from industry comrades and potential clients. It can seem daunting, so I thought I’d attempt to sum up a few of my own current thoughts on the matter.