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Two Critical Trends in Designing for Multiple Devices


The Academic Director for Aquent Gymnasium, Jeremy Osborn gives us this post from his recent trip to the Artifact Conference. He’s super sharp, so if you like what you read, be sure to sign up for his free online Responsive Web Design course!

A few weeks ago I had the chance to attend the Artifact Conference in Providence, RI for two days.

The conference was organized by Jennifer Robbins (@jenville) and Christopher Schmitt (@teleject) for “DESIGNERS who are adapting to the challenge of designing for a MULTI-DEVICE world”.

As the Academic Director of Aquent Gymnasium moonlighting as the instructor for our course on Responsive Web Design, this is a topic which I have more than a passing interest in!

Two Trends

The conference reminded me that we are in the middle of a really interesting time for web design and development characterized by two trends. On the one hand, responsive web design is changing the way designers and developers approach collaboration with team members and clients.

On the other hand, responsive design is forcing companies to prioritize site performance. The consensus is that slow-loading and bloated sites are just as much of a “design” flaw as confusing layout, clashing colors, and the rampant proliferation of typefaces on page.

Let’s take a closer look at these trends:

Responsive Workflow: The challenges of creating websites that look great and perform well on multiple devices, screen sizes and scenarios are forcing an evolution in design and development workflows. Many are now abandoning “traditional” techniques based around building page mockups in Photoshop and turning instead to the use of style tiles or element collages, and, once a design direction is found, moving the design into the browser as early as possible. This trend has been building for a while, but I’ve noticed an increasing sophistication in the way we articulate the benefits of this approach to our clients.

Improving Performance: On the second day of the conference, Ethan Marcotte kicked things off with an impassioned call for designers to “improve the health of the web.” He exhorted the assembled web professionals to ask the critical question—“Is this design worth its performance cost?”—and emphasized the fact that making responsive websites accessible, beautiful and low-weight is absolutely within our reach and totally worth the effort.  

As it turns out, both of these topics are specifically covered in lessons 10 and 12 of our Responsive Web Design course, but have also been integrated into the introductory lessons as well.

Further Reading

Many of the presenters put their slides online. Here are a few of the highlights for the curious:

I’ll also add that Artifact Bookmarks offers a goldmine of online resources gathered by Artifact attendee King Design @KingDesignLLC

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