February 16, 2013

Responsive Design Gets Simplified

As a Valentine’s Day present of sorts, Adobe announced the release of a handful of new Web design and development tools for its Creative Cloud suite earlier today. This includes updates to the Adobe Edge Animate and Dreamweaver programs, but the real star of the show is the Adobe Edge Reflow responsive design tool.

Edge Reflow will allow users to create “high fidelity” CSS3 website designs that can realize and resize for the design surface that the user is visiting the site from, while allowing creators to select from a desktop or mobile-first design approach and to preview their work (in its various sizes) from within a browser.

Needless to say, this is going to be a handy tool for many Web designers and developers out there, as it makes it significantly easier to create a robust, feature-rich mobile-responsive website; and really, isn’t that the ultimate goal of most Web professionals these days? Of course it is, and that is why solutions like Adobe Edge Reflow are not only going to become more commonplace, but they’ll likely become something of a necessity for the designers and developers of the future.

Responsive Design: Then & Now

Traditionally, the bulk of the work of responsive design has been laid at the desk of a content management system (CMS), which most websites utilize in one form or another through a platform like WordPress or Drupal, or by using an internally developed system. Either way, the responsive design challenge has long been based upon the capabilities of a company’s CMS.

Building a responsive website starts by designing a liquid layout or set of fluid grids that expands with a page to fit the browser/screen from which the site is being accessed. But that isn’t the most important part, because next the developer has to include the CSS3 media queries that help websites to gather data about a sits visitor and use that info to conditionally apply CSS styles. These queries effectively control the site’s behavior and allow it to respond to the end user’s needs.

Until now, the challenge for responsive design has largely been trying to find a theme for a designer’s content management system that would be able to respond to a wide array of different screen sizes and device types, but thanks to new platforms, solutions and services (like Adobe Edge Reflow) that take automatically take care of the “responsive” aspect of website design, that is quickly changing.

No Longer Just a Special Consideration

If the release of Edge Reflow signifies anything, it’s that responsive design isn’t just a cool added bonus that only a select few websites have or need to worry about anymore. From now through the foreseeable future, mobile is going to be a major factor in company’s Web success, and responsive design is the simplest and most effective way to meet that problem head-on.

As a result, solutions that make it easy to not only create a website that is able to automatically respond to a user’s screen size or device, but also allows designers and developers to preview what their site will look like in a variety of different shapes and sizes as they’re designing it, will become some of the most useful tools available to them; so much so that we will likely begin to see a proliferation of similar services sooner, rather than later. We already are, to some extent.

Just yesterday, a new all-in-one CMS and marketing platform called Bislr was launched, born initially out of the desire to combine all of the different touch points for business owners, designers and marketers into a single, unified platform. With Bislr, companies can build their own “intelligent” websites from the ground up, using a simple drag-and-drop interface, that come equipped with built-in social media and marketing capabilities, including integration with CRM and marketing automation software. And on top of all that, the service creates sites that are immediately responsive “with no extra work.” Users can even adjust their interface’s size to see how the site will look when rendered on different devices, allowing them to make changes as necessary during the initial build.

Responding to Needs

As the need for responsive design increases exponentially, so will the need to simplify the process for designers and developers, as virtually every site they create will have to be able to operate across devices. Adobe Edge Reflow may be the first big-name solution to provide this kind of quick-and-easy functionality, but it certainly won’t be the last.

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