Responsive Design… Q&A with Gene Lewis continues

Responsive Design… Not a Magic Solution

When responsive design first appeared as a solution to the challenge of “going mobile” with website content, more than a few people jumped on it with the eagerness of a cat chasing a fast-moving object across a floor or field. Since then, reality has crept back into view. Responsive design is hard work. Mobile apps sometimes are a better solution. Responsive design will not magically turn a bad website on a big screen into a good one on a smaller screen.
Do you really want to make everything on your “regular” website “responsive”? The right answer is “Of course not, that’s just silly. Half of the content on our website is garbage.” But how will you decide what content to purge? That’s one thing we’ll talk about at my responsive design session at the J.Boye Web and Intranet Conference in Philadelphia this May.
This occasional Responsive Design series started last week and featured Gene Lewis, creative director at Digital Pulp, answering questions from a project now underway at Dartmouth College. Today we wrap that up with more Q&A with Gene. 
Responsive Design: Moving Mainstream with Extra Time and Cost
REJ Question: When a potential client first approaches you about creating a Responsive Design website, what are the most important questions you ask to learn how much they already know about what’s involved?
Gene Lewis Answer
“Whenever a client brings up a specific need or requirement, we do some digging to learn what’s behind the request – It’s important to know what we’re solving for. Clients are often susceptible to trends (e.g. We need a blog! Not sure why, but we need one!). If a solid strategy isn’t attached to a request, it often falls flat.
“When RD is raised, we want to make sure that our clients understand what Responsive Design enables (and what it doesn’t), and that it requires some additional effort (and therefore cost). Gone are the days when mobile was a nice-to-have. RD is now far more mainstream and doesn’t feel like a trend request.”
Responsive Design: The Creative Challenge
REJ Question: From your experience creating RD sites, is there a “most likely” barrier to success that you need to overcome?
Gene Lewis Answer
“We’re in the midst of many responsive projects right now, and each pose their own set of challenges. If I said cost, would that seem shallow?
“One of the most frustrating things I’ve read time and again is that Responsive isn’t really that much more work –B.S. If you do it well, it’s more work for everyone involved. And as an agency, it adds an entire level of approvals and revision cycles to a project. 
“A number of RD articles have said that a majority of responsive design work should be done in code — and not in design. While I have the utmost respect and admiration for good front-end developers, I haven’t run across many developers with an incredible design aesthetic. 
“For a truly elegant Responsive result, you need the creative and front-end development teams working together. There are so many ways of creatively solving interface challenges these days that the sky’s the limit — you just need someone to make the right choices.”
And a marketing note on top tasks…
I’ll explore the marketing element more in the future, but every web team working on a public site will benefit from the addition of a marketing-oriented member who understands the need to make top-task completion a priority. When people can complete their top tasks quickly and easily, the marketing strength of your website will grow.
Gene on recommended reading…
When I asked Gene for recommended reading, he started with a “shameless plug” for an article by the agency’s director of user experience, Sarah Blecher. Check Sarah’s blog post for “9 Questions Higher Education Institutions Should Ask Before Starting a Responsive Website Design Project.” No room for cats chasing shiny objects here.
He also recommended Tim Kadlec’s book, Implementing Responsive Web Design.
My 2-day “Writing Right for the Web” Workshop… for any screen size

May 30-31, Boston: “Writing Right for the Web: Improving Your Web Content,” Academic Impressions Conference. Review the topics and register.
That’s all for now.

Join me on Twitter at

Subscribe to “Your Higher Education Marketing Newsletter” and “Link of the Week” selections at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *