We recently sent out Rebecca to the the Designing for Multiple Devices workshop at General Assembly headed by Anna Dahlstrom to get more insight into this ever changing and growing industry. Here are her reflections about what it was like and what she learnt:
The workshop was a great experience to join others in the industry in an intimate setting. I think most people were there because they understand the value of UX design but were not entirely sure the best ways and practices to approach it.
The workshop was comprised of informative presentations followed by short exercises and case studies. There are a lot of extensive articles on the Internet about responsive design but it’s always valuable to be able to hear it coming from another person and work and talk through ideas with other designers.
For me, the most eye-opening activity was defining a content strategy. It’s not been something that we’ve done formally in the studio before but is becoming more important with complex sites and determining the hierarchy of information across all screens. The way that we were shown to approach this was to list out the elements that would need to appear on the page e.g. about, share, product listings and give each a number related to its level of importance. It determined and rationalised where and in what order things should appear on a page. I think this is really important as users now expect the same web experience regardless of what device they’re on.
Though simple, it changes the way you think about content, and requires a bit more preparation before the design stage. Many UX designers have suggested that mobile-first design is the best approach. However, in the workshop, Anna suggested that it doesn’t matter what screen you start off on, as long as you are wireframing them simultaneously. I felt this to be more re-assuring as I’ve always preferred starting with desktop layouts as they are more complex than single column mobile layouts.
The workshop also introduced the concept of modules or atomic design, as a way to approach responsive websites, where each page is seen as being composed of different building blocks or modules. These modules in turn can be designed individually and shown how they would react to different screen sizes and reused across different pages. As a result, web designers will begin to create pattern libraries (such as this one from Mailchimp) similar to the way that branding guidelines are created rather than complete page designs. It becomes much more efficient from a design and development point of view but requires much more collaboration between them.
All in all, the workshop was a valuable experience to understand how to start thinking more fluidly about responsive design.