How responsive design is changing the way content producers work

Responsive Design book coverWith content being consumed across any number of devices – desktop, laptop, mobile, tablet – responsive design has come to the fore as a way to serve up device-oriented content. But what does this grid-like approach mean for web content, and for the developers, designers and digital editors who put it together?

Last year, we interviewed Danny Chadburn, content strategist with iCrossing, for an insight into what his job involves. Since then he has written an ebook called Responsive design: how to weave content into an adaptive framework. The book explains responsive design in a simple, accessible way and Danny has kindly let us publish three extracts from it for our readers…

The first one we’ve picked out is a chapter called ‘Online Origami’, which addresses the fading relevance of the ‘fold’ – one of the most strategised positioning elements on a web page. The topic neatly shows how responsive design is rewriting many of the accepted (desktop-oriented) rules of online content, and changing the way content producers must work together to create effective customer journeys that keep their purpose no matter what the device.

Online Origami

As the number of web-enabled devices continues to increase, the concept of ‘the fold’ is an outdated notion. Content creators once worked with designers and UX specialists to ensure that essential copy, links and buttons were arranged in a way that would allow visitors to immediately take action, without the need for the dreaded scroll.

Now, when a site reacts and adjusts according to device and screen size, the precious pixel-perfect positioning is lost.

The fold still exists, but it now appears in an inconceivable number of places. Scrolling may not even be such a bugbear for users. After all, when you’re on a flimsy 3G signal, would you prefer to have added clicks or swipe your finger to move down the screen?

Early mobile experiences were often filled with ‘next’ buttons or pagination that tried to keep content per page to a minimum and as much as possible high up on the screen. Modern responsive sites do away with this, allowing users to freely move around, with site elements arranged to provide the user with everything they need, in a way that’s simple to absorb.

Broken into bits

Absorbability means different things to different people. The role of developers is to create media query code that assesses how best to display the web page based on the user’s device; the focus of designers is to identify where and when the elements of the site should be rearranged so it sits in a sensible structure; the role of the content professional is to ensure they help to meet the goal of the user and the business.

content gridsAll the cogs in the digital machine need to work together to understand the message you’re trying to get across and make sure it’s emphasised throughout the whole customer journey.
Content teams aren’t in the business of creating web pages, they’re focused on creating what goes into them and a development project that fails to place importance on this could potentially overlook some critical aspects.

Narrowing the area where copy and images sit so they fit within a smaller screen size is a simple enough procedure, however making sure it retains its original purpose is a much harder task.

Next week: 10 responsive design tips to make your website shine – takeways for developers, designers and content editors.