To which extent is the designer responsible of a responsive design?


Consider the following (idealized) chart.

enter image description here

Now, I have worked with colleagues from every side of this spectrum and have learnt that, unfortunately, it tends to be more like this.

enter image description here

Most "web developers" tend to know very little of design principles while, on the other hand, "web designers" tend to know very little of the technical side of the web. Well rounded "web crafters" are hard to find.

This unfortunate but real scenario makes creating a responsive website for a team of developers and designers a pain. Web designers tend to forget the site should adapt to every possible commercial device and often design rigid layouts that look great on their own screen but are impossible to turn into responsive websites. Developers, on the other hand, tend to make brutal adaptations of the designer's vision trying to achieve responsiveness.

Where should the responsibility of designing a responsive website fall? Should the web designer be expected to provide well thought guidelines for the developer on how to adapt the website for every possible scenario? Or is this an unreasonable expectation?

Please notice I am focusing on the design side of it, not on the developing side of it.

3/31/2015 4:10:00 PM

Accepted Answer

Any well skilled designer is always going to be interested in implementation to a degree. Perhaps not in an "I can build it" aspect, but at least in a "that's not possible" aspect.

Whether a designer hits the far right side of your graph or not, they should always know what they can and can't do in any given medium. You can't design well for print if you don't understand separations. You can't design well for signage if you don't understand resolutions, etc.

I think any designer responsible for web materials should at least fall into this:

enter image description here

And I don't think it's as lopsided as your second graph.

The days where you can do a pretty mock up in Photoshop and simply hand it off are gone in my experience. In my experience, developers (meaning the left side of your graph) aren't really looking for someone on the far right. They are looking for a designer who at least understands what is possible and the restrictions necessary for designing well. This moves them from the far right, at least one tick left.

Are there still developers that hit the far left, absolutely. Just as there are still designers that hit the far right. However, a more important aspect may be experience. Are there developers/designers that hit the far left/right if they have 5, 8 or 10 years experience? I doubt it. The more experience one has the closer to the middle they get.

So perhaps this is more appropriate:

enter image description here

In a company structure you look for individuals to fill the far right/left position. This provides a solid basis for that desired skill set. However, I'd speculate that the more desirable a candidate is, the closer to the middle two images their skills fall.

3/31/2015 7:53:00 PM

Where should the responsibility of designing a responsive website fall?

Typically on management. Smart management will realize it's a team project so everyone needs to be coordinated and working in tandem. This would include (but not limited to) visual design, UX, UI dev, back end dev, content team, marketing, etc.

Agile development is a good way to approach this.

Many organizations do not do this, of course, and tend to silo each of the above teams and use the old "toss it over the fence and don't worry about it" waterfall process.

Please notice I am focusing on the design side of it, not on the developing side of it.

That is the problem. You can't focus on one and not the other. The design of a responsive site is the development of a responsive site.

This is true of interaction design, in general. Interaction design (be it a responsive layout, a drop down menu, an animation, etc.) has to be designed in the medium it will be used in--the browser. This requires some level of development.

My ideal UX team structure would include the following roles*:

  • Visual Designer and/or UI Designer
  • UI Developer
  • Content
  • Research/User Testing

Now, that doesn't mean the UX Team's UI developer is the person writing production code, but they are writing working code to properly design, create, and test the interaction.

This is then shared with dev, and further work is done as a team to integrate it into the final responsive system goal.

* Said roles should include at least one of your 'web crafters'. I agree that they are sometimes harder to find, but they are a necessity on teams. You need at least one person that can communicate across the board and be able to talk to icon designers as well as DB admins.