Visceral is lucky enough to be located in San Diego. Now, San Diego lies about 400 miles south of Silicon Valley, where digital reigns supreme and mt.lions roam the coastal ridge between the Bay and the mighty Pacific. But what we lack in tech industry saturation and big furry cats, we make up for in sunshine and our ability to attend awesome conferences from time to time—in this case, An Event Apart.
It was an inspiring three days where we were able to network and learn from some of the forerunners in our industry. Topics spanned a variety of subject matters, but they all shared a single purpose—to help us be better at what we do. We know not everyone was fortunate enough to attend, so we thought we’d share some of common themes from the event. So here we go…
Responsive Design is Web Design
We already knew this, but it’s worth reaffirming.
About a third of people accessing the web are doing it from a mobile device, a number that will inevitably grow until it eclipses those accessing the web from a desktop browser. In other words, gone are the good ol’ days of fixed width web design. We have a responsibility to our users to make sure they are getting access to information they need on the devices they use and responsive design is the approach that makes it happen. Visceral is no stranger to the challenges this presents, but we are excited about the future of the web. Mobile access has presented creators like us with the perfect opportunity to challenge our clients to think differently about how they architect their presence on the web. It’s a directive we openly embrace. So here are few things we should keep in mind when creating responsive websites:
• Responsive design is about proportions—design fluidly and abandon the notion that pixel sizes can define the layout of your site. Percentages are your friend.
• Responsive involves planning. Planning takes time and time usually requires more budget.
• Unless there is a compelling reason for it, the mobile specific website is dead.
• Think about other types of input, like touch, and be sure you are not hiding information from users behind hover states.
• Use progressive enhancement as a safety net, ensuring everyone has access to your content.
There is no such thing as “mobile content” there is only “good content”
We believe that users, regardless of how they are accessing the web, all desire a similar experience—one that is succinct and engaging. This is a fundamental rule of good writing, and web content is no exception. But like all good things in the world, great web content doesn’t come without work. Distilling complex ideas and information into words and visuals is a difficult task. Cutting things down is often more difficult than adding things in. Our job, as creators, is to lead our clients in making better decisions about their content. To do that, we need to keep in mind a few things:
• “Good content transcends platform” (thanks Karen McGrane.) Do not shiloh your approach to content creation. Mobile users should have access to the same content as the desktop version.
• Inform your content through information architecture. After all, good IA is not about design it is about content hierarchy.
• You cannot separate good content from style and form. If something is not interesting, then why spend time with it. Content needs personality, and personality is often defined by the form and the way it is presented on the page.
Size [still] matters
So what can we do?
• Always ask who your audience is for your website. Do your research and see what kind of devices your demographic uses and optimize based on that experience.
• Test and re-test your products across an array of devices.
• Use image compression techniques to lower the overall size of your images without degrading the quality.
We need to be unicorns
Unicorns?! Yep, unicorns. At least that is what Jared Spool thinks, and we agree. As agencies, we have done a great job of compartmentalizing people’s skills and saying they are specialists in a certain task. Those tasks range from design, to content creation, to development, to IA, to marketing, and the list goes on. It makes sense why we do it, but what if we were equally as strong in all areas?
Well, that is what Jared defines as a unicorn—someone that can do all or most of it.
Becoming unicorns is important because, ultimately, they lead to better products. If we all understand what makes each aspect of the project tick, then the project will be inherently better. As an added benefit, it streamlines communication—limiting the players at the table, keeping budgets in check by ensuring everyone is on the same page. So what can we do to become unicorns?
• Keep learning. We should never rest on our laurels. Our industry changes too frequently to do that in general, but we should be challenging ourselves to learn new things all the time.
• Take pride in being a “generalist” vs. a “specialist” — master some things, but make sure you have a good, working knowledge of everything else.
• Always strive to create better products. Imitation is not innovation—so get informed and think differently about how to approach solving problems.
So, lets all strap on our alicorns and do some kickass work!