The following experts have contributed answers to this edition of Ask UXmatters:
- Steven Hoober—Mobile Interaction Designer and Owner at 4ourth Mobile; author of Designing Mobile Interfaces; UXmatters columnist
- Peter Hornsby—UX Consultant at Friends Life; UXmatters columnist
- Bob Hotard—Lead eCommerce Web Design Architect at att.com; Technology and Production Chair, TEDxSanAntonio
- Adrian Howard—Generalizing Specialist in Agile/UX
Q: Recently, we’ve seen an influx of rapid design tools, the birth of the mobile-first strategy, and the growth of responsive Web design (RWD), which by its nature, simplifies content, layout, and overall user flows. On the other hand, communicating that RWD concept to stakeholders becomes a little more complex when a site shifts to a larger breakpoint. How is RWD changing the approach to corporate UX design?—from a UXmatters reader
“I think everyone understands the concept of starting with a mobile design—a small screen, simple interactions, and less content,” answers Bob. “But when you already have a traditional desktop design in production, you really have to take the approach of reconstructing each module, page, or application flow with RWD. Ask yourself, How would I reinvent this page if I were designing it for the first time for a mobile device? That will put you in right mindset.
“I’ve heard designers describe this frame of mind as mobile up, not desktop down. It forces you to ask the basic questions that, as designers, we always want our business partners to ask: What is the single purpose of the page? What is the primary content, and how should you prioritize the content?
“Since attending Luke Wroblewski’s ‘Mobile First’ workshop, I now ask: What is your 1, 2, 3? When I show product owners a block wireframe of the teeny, tiny iPhone screen, they usually see right away that, for example, only 1 and part of 2 will initially be visible, and 3 after a swipe—and that’s okay. This demonstration hits home. I have found that, in this context, product owners immediately get the picture of straightforward content, simple interactions, and clean visuals. Then it becomes much easier to communicate, illustrate, and demo the expansion of a tablet breakpoint, and finally, a fluid, adaptable desktop version. But creative is only part of the plan.
“I recently tweeted, ‘If you’re in corporate Web design and considering converting to RWD, get ready for future shock,’” continues Bob. “RWD is forcing all of us in the corporate arena to look at our design process, our deliverables, and how we interact with developers, testers, and release management. If your company’s response is ‘Oh great! Now we have to create three wireframes, comps, and content documents for every page.’ they’re missing the boat—and unfortunately, it’s a speed boat with a wide turn radius. It would be wise to consider modifying your creative process as well as your development and testing methods. It really is a culture shift, and it is all for the good. But as with all change, this is rarely easy, and people may not be ready to embrace it.”