Responsive Design is Content-Centric Design

For the last few years, the web community has embraced the advantages that responsive design offers to most projects. As it’s become more and more an everyday part of our profession, people have adopted a variety of approaches and philosophies trying to maximize the impact of responsive design. However, not every process prioritizes the most important part of responsive design: the content.

It’s long been debunked that mobile users want different content than desktop users. The presentation of this content should differ in such a way that users with smaller screens can consume and interact with the content just as thoroughly as those on larger screens. This need is where we start when we create anything: the content has to shine through, regardless of how it’s being accessed.

Everything we do is ab out communicating a story, because we believe that the best products and companies have a great story behind them. That’s what sets them apart and helps users connect. If you look at the ways people describe good storytelling, it’s much of the same vocabulary that we use when talking about the ways visual design can impact users: character, tone, emotion. When we start with content, we can define all of these things and carry them over when we start to lay the foundation of a visual language, like typography and color.

Beyond the way content makes your users feel, layout can drastically change the impact of your content. Whether your design preference is mobile-first or otherwise, it’s important to let your content dictate the break points. If at any given screen size, a portion of your layout doesn’t work well, then it’s time to adjust the styles for that portion. It would be nice to think you could set break points for “mobile,” “tablet,” and “desktop” sizes, but content is dynamic, fluid, and won’t always fit nicely into three predefined boxes.

Smarter Content for Better Results

Trying to fit your content into preset layouts is a bit like planning for dinner before you know how many guests are showing up. Setting the table for four if your entire extended family is about to descend on your house isn’t going to cut it, nor does it make sense to cook a 20 lb. turkey if it’s just you and the dog hanging out (although your dog would probably be pretty stoked on the leftovers).

This is why we start with content. That’s not to say that layout can’t influence content throughout the process. It’s a give and take to find the right solution. The key word here is, “optimal.” The story is the most important part, and we’re always looking for the best way to tell it.

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