One question I get often at my talks these days is, “How does responsive design change your web design process?” The answer is, “Not much at all.”
I’m not an expert on responsive design practices. My current solutions are not always the most elegant. But learning how these details work is not, nor has ever been, a complete reversal of how I design for the web. 10+ years ago, I learned web design by writing HTML and CSS. I designed in the browser for years before I even knew Photoshop existed. I have always been aware I’m designing objects that will be viewed in different screen resolutions and on different browsers and that pixel perfection doesn’t make much sense in a dynamic environment.
Yes, I now have to adjust my designs for optimization on wildly different device sizes. I have worked on projects where I only produced wireframe assets for mobile views, and it required a longer process than I’m used to with desktop views. I’ve had to work to let go of my lazy, fixed-width layouts and become more confident with fluidity.
But none of this challenged my basic, fundamental way of designing. In fact, it aligns perfectly with it. It’s the natural evolution of the dynamic way I’ve tried to think about creating beautiful, accessible websites from the very beginning.
There is a shift going on with responsive design, but it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with responsive properties in particular. Responsive design has just made it impossible for us to continue to misunderstand or ignore implementation of web design in its intended medium. Frankly, it’s a shift that is long overdue.
Every element you add to a design must have a purpose. The purpose may be purely emotive. This is fine. We are, after all, emotional, irrational, unpredictable creatures. But it must have purpose. And that purpose must be a valuable one. Remember, every element you add either contributes to your product being more useful and easier to understand or makes it less useful and more confusing. You should no more be adding visual elements willy nilly to your sites than you should be adding code snippets and components without at least understanding their motivations, purpose, and effects.A terrific article on the design process in development from Aral Balkin.