I can almost remember so clearly the day when I first heard the term “Cross Channel”. In 2010, I was new to UX Design. I’ll admit that I’m still new, but gaining some ground and learning some ropes. When I first began trying to do this job, I spent a great deal of time learning, reading, watching videos from other UX Designers, and attending speaking events. One of the leads on our team came to with a wealth of knowledge. His speech for the day was all about the “Cross Channel Experience”. That was the day that I began really considering what it meant to design for more than just the platform I was most comfortable in. That was when I began getting a grasp of what responsive design was all about.
Responsive design is no mystery
It’s been a big topic with the rise of smart devices. We’ve seen many screen sizes.
There isn’t any hope of designing for one standard screen size in tomorrow’s world. Some people are starting their experience with your service on their laptop, then leaving their desk to go to lunch with their friend where they want to pick up where they left off on their laptop, but on their mobile device–and so goes the chain of possible channels that a user might want to experience your UI on. That, in a nutshell is responsive design. It’s essentially having a design that will look great on whichever device or screen size that your user will want to view it in. It’s a users’ market, so tomorrow’s success will be defined in how well you can grasp responsive design.
For a good primer on Responsive Design, check out Smashing Magazine’s article titled Responsive Web Design: What is it how to use it.
Responsive design takes work
I think that at first glance, many folks underestimate how much work responsive design is. In the Global Item Procurement project that I was a part of, they wanted to have a responsive design with the hope of providing service to buyers who might be just about anywhere, from working at home on a desktop, laptop, on their mobile in a store, or maybe even browsing on a gaming console. Luckily, I talked them into narrowing the scope to just mobile, tablet, and desktop/laptop sizes.
For the GIP project, the easiest part was coming up with screens that looked good at different sizes. The difficult part was communicating what was needed to the developers. Redline specifications take time. Every developer is different in what they want from redlines. That means that one must first meet with the developer to get an idea of what they want or don’t want. Here’s a tip, if you can create a styleguide, you will be saving yourself a lot of work. But, the fact is that with responsive design, be prepared to provide many MANY more specs than you did with just the one screen of the past.
Responsive design is becoming normalized
Everything about User Experience design is about understanding user expectations. Here’s one that I believe is important to note–Responsive design may becoming normalized. By normalized, I mean to say that users are expecting responsive design out of every interface more and more often.
Cross channel experience, adaptive design techniques, liquid layouts, and the like have been floating around for a long time. As mentioned in about 2010 I started learning about responsive design. In 2010, iPhone went from the 4S model, to the iPhone 5 which came with a screen size change. That screen change set the tone for new device models. That’s really when the industry knew that the older models still had strong presence, while the new models were strong as well. Devices were sticking around longer.
While I think the popularity of the term “responsive design” may seem to be going down, my closing prediction is that while the topic’s novelty may be waring off in terms of a topic of interest for writing about, the concept will remain ingrained and assimilated into our modern culture.