Responsive Day Out 2

Three Computerlovers from across different disciplines offer their own personal perspectives on the Responsive Day Out 2 conference.

“I’ve not been to a conference for a couple of years now, mainly because I feel like I tend to get a better handle on what’s going on in the industry by reading articles.

But I decided to make an exception for Responsive Day Out 2 because I’d heard great things about last year’s event and, most importantly, that the content offered a fresh perspective.

Travelling down to the conference with Andy and Ali with a few inevitable train beers, we essentially started out with our own little mini conference, with me putting the world to rights with my views on responsive design and what the future holds.

And to my delight my views were echoed throughout the day in Brighton (though obviously they were relayed in a much more sober manner).

Designers getting their work into the browser earlier is something I’ve been trying to push for some time now so it was great to hear Stephen Hay put it into context and actually explain that we should be designing for content breakpoints, and not device breakpoints.

I also enjoyed the ‘Death of the column’ talk by Oliver Reichenstein. He really put things into perspective and made the difficult topic of content priority sound so simple.

I’m glad I broke my ‘no conferences’ rule to go along — the day was a great mix of real world examples and industry ideals.”

Branny, Head of Front End Development

“Lately it seems that everyone has an opinion on the responsive design issue and how to figure it out, so it was definitely interesting to hear what the industry leaders in this arena have to say.

The ‘Content first’ talk by Ida Aalen got me thinking. There are obvious benefits of a ‘content first’ approach, yet it’s quite often the case that content isn’t finalised until the very last minute, triggering a frenzy of jamming too much text into a small space before the site goes live.

But it makes sense to move the content plan and creation towards the beginning of the process. After all, the content is what the user is after and it’s the reason the site is there in the first place. The better we arrange and present this content, the easier it is to navigate and the more pleasing to the eye it is.

Stephen Hay also raised some interesting points in ‘Learning CSS’. With the lines between design and front end development blurring more and more, both sides need to have a good understanding and appreciation for each others’ discipline. As much as we expect developers to have an eye for spacing, font sizes and image quality, designers should be prepared to try out some of their ideas in the browser to see if it works before wasting their valuable time.

Oliver Reichenstein did a very witty and no frills talk on information architecture. He continuingly reiterated the point of not having columns, his point being that it’s difficult for the eye to see the priority of content when there is something fighting for attention in a similar area on the page. That’s not to say that you can’t have content side by side; you can, as long as the content is related to each other, grouped into one container. In this way, as you scroll down the page, it’s obvious that the first piece on content is the most important, the second piece is second, and so on. Simple.

One point that was touched on numerous time throughout the conference was the importance of trust. Without trust from the client it’s difficult for us to do what we think’s best and it’s hard to keep control of the process. It’s our job as creatives to get the client to trust us; to appear assured and confident in our decisions. As trust is so fragile, it doesn’t take much for it to break, so everything we do needs to be considered, right down to the presentation slides and WIPs.”

Andy, Art Director

“Whilst at my granny’s 93rd birthday, I experienced absolute hell — and a revelation about responsive design. Bear with me…

If you’ve ever tried talking to young parents whilst their toddler cries, you’ll know that it’s a hard task; if you’ve ever tried talking to a grandparent who’s forgotten to turn on their hearing aid, then you will know that this is actually impossible.

And it was whilst struggling to explain what User Experience is to a table of toddlers and retirees that I realised that the true challenge for a responsive website is not just to look great on different devices, but to get across a clear and concise message whilst overcoming distractions and barriers.

At Code, UX and design work together to make sure that our end product has all the key components and looks nice too. But the Responsive Day Out provided a reminder that our task is also to ensure that our clients’ messages and services are communicated effectively, no matter the situation.

I have previously worked with clients where we have reduced video content so that it is a lower resolution and shorter length for mobile users. This was to adapt to the needs and time limits of a commuter or someone out and about. Having heard Stephen Hay, Sally Jenkinson and Ida Aalen talk, I now strongly believe that this adaptation should be extended to paragraph length and level of detail provided within written messages too.

Sally Jenkinson described it best when she instructed us to start with the message we wanted to communicate, then work out how to give it the same impact on both different devices and in different situations. As I had to respond to my relatives requests with differing diction, varying volume levels, and an array of analogies, so to must our web designs respond differently to suit the user.

The most common tactic in our industry currently is to make a site that will adapt its size to suit ‘mobile, tablet and desktop’. But now that we have desktop, laptop, tablet, mini tablet, large smart phone, and small smart phone, we surely need to stop presuming that there are just three set sizes in which a site will be viewed.

My final takeaway was that we must also ensure that our sites are ready to perform a function from whatever page the user lands on first. Ida Aalen touched on this when discussing Netlife’s use of the Core Model. At Netlife, Ida overcame this by working on a set of core pages from which her team then designed clear pathways to the websites goals without the use of an unnecessarily deep hierarchy. This proposed way of working is not only an efficient way of creating a valuable user experience, but it’s also a great way of working as it avoids the work becoming overly focussed or hung up on the homepage.

So although attending a 93rd birthday party got me thinking about UX, to be honest you’re probably better off just going to next year’s Responsive Conference or catching me for a quick chat at any of the NUX events to get your insights.”

Ali, User Experience Executive