The word of the day is responsive. The word of the month is responsive. In fact, responsive has been the word for the entirety of POSTMKTG’s existence.
Responsive is the term applied to websites that are coded to sniff out the screen size of the device being used – desktop, tablet, smartphone, whatever – and set the size and position of text, graphics and menus relative to the available real estate.
Responsive coding is an alternative to mobile coding, where developers create a completely separate site (often with an “m.domain.com” address). Responsive coding is also a sub-set of the more inclusive term, adaptive coding, which covers the selective enhancement (or degradation) of a site depending on the device being used.
Debates rage about which coding alternative is best. The answer is always, “it depends.” (See Brad Frost’s Romeny vs. Obama Smackdown … and guess which candidate is responsive?)
Regardless, designers can no longer afford to only deal with the layout of the desktop version of a site. By the end of this year, according to Google, 1 billion people will use smartphones as their primary means of accessing the web. And then there are tablets of every shape and size (including a long-rumored iPad mini) that should also respond (or adapt).
I’m afraid that means the days of designers using a static page layout program like InDesign, Illustrator or even Photoshop as their only visualization tool, and leaving it to a developer to either scale or interpret for all near sizes, are over. For control and efficiency, designers need to test and refine their design in a dynamic and responsive environment.
However, as far as I know, there is no design tool that makes this easy. Nor is there likely to ever be one. But designers do have an option. They can get comfortable with WordPress (and some coding), and then start familiarizing themselves with the rapidly evolving world of professionally designed premium WordPress templates – particularly those that come with basic responsive code built in.
Now, before anybody cries, “cheater,” let me clarify.
Professionally designed templates are not the answer to every problem. Like the choice between mobile and responsive, the answer to the question of whether a designer should design dynamically starting with a template is, “it depends.”
But there are some really good premium template houses out there, and many of the new designs they offer are responsive (see Best Responsive WordPress Themes). It is no more a cheat for a designer to start with a template than it is for her or him to start with a gird, a few stock photos and a handful of favorite professionally designed typefaces.
For a modest cost, often under $100 a year ($89/yr. for POSTMKTG’s friend, Elegant Themes), designers can subscribe to a template service and download as many templates as they want. Plus, at no additional cost, designers can usually gain access to a community of developers and near real-time professional support.
Now, it is true that few really good designers are also really good developers. And vice versa. So for now and into the foreseeable future, designers and developers will have to work in partnership.
Unfortunately, a lot of developers are, well, kind of snobs when it comes to code. They insist that the only efficient solution to every development challenge is to start from scratch.
But there is a rising class of developers (many of whom hang out on the forums hosted by the template houses) who, for a very modest fee, will work with designers to turn templates into unique visual expressions, custom experiences and bullet-proof code.
Today, a designer who can design in WordPress, and who is sensitive to the demands of responsive/mobile/adaptive environments, when teamed with a developer comfortable customizing pre-coded templates, can deliver outstanding device-optimized results, faster and for far less money than could have been imagined just a year ago.