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Sara Wachter-Boettcher on the Biggest Mistake in Responsive Design

09/22/2013

This week we asked Sara Wachter-Boettcher—one of the instructors at our Responsive Design Studio (Mountain View, October 15-16)—to discuss a huge responsive design screw-up:

Rosenfeld Media: What’s one huge mistake organizations make when they embark on responsive design?

Sara Wachter-Boettcher: They think that it’s all about front-end development. Slap on some media queries and fit things to a flexible grid and you’re done, right?

But really, effective responsive design starts much earlier: at the strategy phase. As you design for devices of any size and shape, it becomes more important than ever to have a crystal-clear idea of what you’re trying to communicate and what your users need. You can’t design the look and feel and then figure out what you need to communicate later; there’s no space for that on small screens.

Instead, you have to make every single design decision align with the purpose of your site and the information you need to communicate—because that’s the only way you can be sure your point is going to get across as screen sizes shift and devices change.

To do this, you have to start with strategy, focus on content and messaging, and get everyone—designers, developers, writers, CMS specialists, everyone—on the same page early in the process. This is a challenge for many organizations that are used to working in silos or strict waterfall processes, but it’s only when we get more collaborative early in the process that we can get everyone working toward a shared vision. This is, of course far preferable to building an experience that is viewable on a small screen but is disjointed, difficult to understand, or fails to meet business and user goals.

Rosenfeld Media: Thanks Sara!

See you in Mountain View next month at the Responsive Design Studio?