You’re Not Ready for Responsive Design Until…

The decision about whether to implement Responsive Web Design (RWD) is undoubtedly one of the biggest questions facing ecommerce retailers right now.

For those of you unfamiliar with RWD and what it means, Responsive is simply a design approach that allows a single web site to adjust to the size of the screen the customers is viewing—be it a smartphone, tablet or enormous desktop—all from one code base and one set of web content.

“Simply” is probably the wrong word to use here, as the process of going responsive for e-commerce involves far more than adapting a code base and selecting breakpoints. In fact, many of our clients at Fluid have engaged us to ascertain how ready their organizations are for handling Responsive Web Design before they take the plunge. During these conversations, we’ve repeatedly validated that no organization is ready for Responsive Design until:

1) You’ve got your content house in order. The beauty of RWD is that an organization need maintain only a single code base and a single set of content assets.

Easier said than done. Most retailers create content in multiple formats, usually for exclusive use on a single platform like catalog versus website. For ecommerce to succeed in a Responsive environment, the content needs to be formatted, warehoused and handled appropriately to work in multiple resolutions.  Before you start even thinking about liquid grids, lift the hood on your content and asset management systems to make sure they can handle the demands of RWD. Otherwise your big move will be fraught with roadblocks and unforeseen expenses.

2) You’re ready to toss out the wireframes. When working in RWD, wireframes—which are a necessary element to any successful customer journey and static visual design—become a liability. If you’re working with multiple breakpoints (the ideal layout for a specific device like an iPad), then you’ll be wireframing yourself into oblivion.

Time to ditch this static approach and start working with rapid prototyping tools. There are a slew out there: from fast grid layouts like Reflow, to component design like flavors of Bootstrap, or off-the-shelf Axzure. These tools help show how your content will scale so your information architects, UX team and visual designers can work hand-in-hand to determine optimal layouts. Besides, prototypes are great tools for educating your stakeholders on how a site operates responsively. Seeing is believing.

3) You’re ready to break down the silos and work flexibly, collaboratively and fast. The very nature of RWD means that it can’t be tackled by a waterfall development process where each team completes their part before the other begins. Instead, your visual designers need to collaborate from the beginning with information architects, the UX team, and ideally someone from content, marketing, merchandising…  You get the picture.

There’s no changing the fact that our world is increasingly filled with multiple devices and that customers jump between them at will to research, price compare and purchase products. If your organization is going to succeed in this environment then your entire ecommerce team needs to work flexibly and fast. Not only will it set you up for success with RWD, you’ll become an agile organization that can tackle the next design or technology innovation, whatever it might be.

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