What is Responsive Design and why is it important?
The web is a vast, far reaching medium. You can access the web today on desktop computers, laptops, tablets, watches, smart phones, smart television, and on a rapidly growing range of devices. This makes it extremely difficult to predict how people will experience and interact with your website or web application. It also challenges the notion of the historical idea of the web browser as a canvas.
What are the elements of a great interactive website? What are some of the challenges of responsive web design?
The biggest challenge of responsive design is creating a cohesive experience that adapts to the growing number of web-enabled devices. It’s not enough to just create a mobile site; designing great interactive experiences requires thinking differently from the outset about how users reach your brand.
Up to a few years ago, the common thought was to start the web design process by focusing on a medium-to-large screen, desktop-centric experience, since that’s where you expect the bulk of users come from. However, more and more sites are reporting mobile as their primary traffic source, and are focusing on a content-first, mobile first design approach. This approach forces you to focus and prioritize key tasks and content users are looking for while also taking advantage of technical capabilities like multi-touch, GPS, orientation, et al.
Where responsive web design is focused on practical techniques, mobile first is more of a methodology or approach to the design process as a whole. With the boom in mobile traffic in recent years, it’s no longer viable to consider the mobile experience as an afterthought.
If you’re starting a new web project or redesigning an existing site, creating an adaptable, future friendly experience should be second most important concern, right behind solving your user’s primary needs and desires. Again, mobile first forces you to think in through the constraints of providing a cross platform experience for your users, while also taking advantage of the new capabilities available through mobile device technology, which is rapidly improving year-by-year.
How did you get involved in Responsive Design?
The individual concepts which make up responsive design have existed for years: fluid, percentage based grids, flexible images, and media queries (although these were enhanced in 2012 in the HTML5 specification). I was introduced to these concepts individually through education and experience, but they didn’t come together for me until I read Ethan Marcotte’s “Responsive Web Design” in 2011 and started applying the concepts together in client work shortly thereafter.
The most important thing about design—digital or physical—is that it satisfies the needs of the people who will be interacting with it.
What are you most excited about in teaching this class?
You are a part of the Ikayzo creative agency, can you describe what your role is and what type of services Ikayzo provides?
As a whole, Ikayzo is an interactive software agency composed of both a creative agency and software engineering firm married under one roof. This allows us to create best of breed interactive applications for a wide variety of clientele, from small business startups to enterprise/finance companies, across growing range of devices, platforms, and digital environments.
I currently serve as vice president of interactive design, where I manage a small team of designers and front-end developers creating interactive experiences for mobile and web applications. As team lead, my role involves strategic consulting and ideation from the early stages of a project including brand development, user experience design, information architecture, and user interface design, all the way through to implementation including prototyping, front-end web development, and usability testing.
What are some interactive websites that you have designed?
On the marketing side, we recently collaborated with Hawaiian Airlines for their new Australian targeted-market microsite Short Breaks Hawaii. Short Breaks Hawaii offers 6 different themed vacation ideas for different Aussie travelers’ tastes and interests, from family fun, to adventure buffs, to couples seeking a romantic escape. Each unique theme presents a 4-day itinerary with carefully curated suggestions for sightseeing, activities, as well as food and drink. The site is both responsive and a great example of using subtle, tasteful animations to create a unique interactive experience.
On the product side, we recently worked with University of Hawai‘i’s Foundation department to develop a new donation experience across 10 campuses and a growing number of department-specific websites. The new donation application features a customizable widget that each department can brand using their on color scheme. The responsive app also gives users an engaging and intuitive way to browse its thousands of funds on the main foundation site, so that you can discover and support causes close to your heart. https://giving.uhfoundation.org/browse\
What type of advice would you give to someone interested in Responsive Design?
If possible, start your process by thinking Mobile First. Also, try not to focus on supporting specific devices (i.e. iPhone vs. iPad) and instead focus on where your design breaks (i.e. small vs medium vs large); supporting specific devices is an endless battle, but if you focus on where your design breaks it becomes easier to design for similar experiences across those different devices.
What do you see in the future of web design?
More web-enabled devices. I can’t necessarily say that watches or glasses are the future, but the Internet of Things [concept of having everyday objects connect to the internet] is definitely bringing a growing array of connected devices to our finger tips. Some of those devices will have user interfaces, and some of them will not. It will be interesting to see how we approach those types of design problems and create new experiences.
What other hobbies or interests do you have?
I’m also really passionate about music. I spend a lot of my free time DJ’ing, collecting records and learning about sound design and audio engineering. I also enjoy gardening and traveling with my wife.
Do you have any anecdotes or interesting stories to share with our readers?
This is a great quote by Don Norman, director of The Design Lab at UCSD and author of The Design of Everyday Things.
“It’s not enough that we build products that function, that are understandable and usable, we also need to build products that bring joy and excitement, pleasure and fun, and yes, beauty to people’s lives.” – Don Norman