As many of you know, I’ve been working as a web designer for the last six months or so at Weber State University. They were kind enough to let me transition from a print job that I wasn’t really happy with. In order to get myself up and running as a web designer I had to do a lot of research 2fast 2furious on how to make websites that looked and felt the way I wanted them to. The last training I really had on web design was a crash course at a local technical college as part of a short certificate program that I did before moving on up to the University, and that was back in 2005. So, needless to say, it had been a while, and things had changed.
I picked up the books produced by A Book Apart. I found them to be exactly what I needed, short, concise, and very current, practical, and progressive. One of the books I found most informative and intriguing was Mobile First, written by Luke Wroblewski, one of the leaders in this approach.
I think this is probably one of the most incredible breakthroughs not only for web design, but for graphic design in general. His point is very accurate and clear, we can’t design for the web the way we design for print, it just doesn’t make sense. If we are designing properly, we should be designing in a way that is appropriate for the viewer. The internet is no longer a desktop-browser space. It is a platform that changes its shape to fit a thousand different mobile devices, televisions, monitors, and browsers. So, this is how we should design.
He takes this one step further, however, and tells us that the best way to accomplish this fluid design is to design for mobile devices first. Brilliant. Smaller, portable devices shouldn’t be trying to load enormous amounts of code that they can’t even display. So, put the small stuff first. Make it so that the mobile devices load less first and the desktop browsers load more as the page loads and the media queries are read.
I’ve found that this doesn’t work very well for me. I have to expand and contract, expand and contract, refresh, refresh, refresh and design for all sizes at once until I get all my classes worked out and defined properly. If I only design for mobile in the beginning, my vision for how this is going to transition to a larger, desktop browser gets lost and I then have to sort through way too much code to decide what steps need to take place to make the site work on all devices.
This works for me. It’s not extremely fast. But, it’s faster than the alternative. And, I guess that’s what really matters—that I am designing as quickly and well as is possible within a cost/benefit balancing act—an act that isn’t always easy to perform, but is worth thinking about at every step of the way.