Book Review: Responsive Design Workflow

Responsive design has many challenges. Performance. Tables. Images. Content. Testing. Each of these, and so much more, must be carefully considered. Most of the solutions are still coming together. We are, as some have been apt to say, making this up as we go.

One of the biggest challenges for many is the workflow: how do you find a process that works for building and designing something intended for such a wide range of devices, input types and contexts? It’s not an easy discussion, particularly for people and companies who are used to a very rigid waterfall method. That’s why I was thrilled when I first heard that Stephen Hay was going to write Responsive Design Workflow.

Stephen walks you through his workflow for designing and developing responsive sites. There’s a lot to love about it. Each step in his workflow seamlessly builds upon the step before it. Documentation and deliverables are generated automatically as the site is built so there isn’t a need to manually update them. This is particularly important. Styleguides and documentation are so valuable to a project, yet if they have to be updated manually everytime something changes there’s a tendency for them to become stale as deadlines shift. Automating the creation of of these important resources is an important piece of the puzzle.

This is not your typical discussion of design workflow. He doesn’t pull any punches. He designs in the browser. He uses (gasp) the terminal. But all the while he carefully and patiently explains the how, and more importantly, the why for each step. The book is also sprinkled with plenty of humorous bits—making for a very entertaining read (how often can you say that about tech books?).

Discussing workflow can sometimes get a bit religious as people debate the merits of one tool or another. You don’t have to worry about that with this book. This is his workflow, and he certainly discusses the merits of the approach and steps that he takes, but Stephen makes it very clear throughout the book that his workflow isn’t for everyone and that the tool is far from the most important thing. As he correctly states:

Clients don’t care what tools you use, as long as you get the job done.

It’s safe to say that even if you decide that some of the specific tools and steps won’t work for you, you are still going to come away with a lot of great ideas for how to improve your workflow (the discussion of breakpoint graphs is particularly fantastic).

All in all, it’s a great book that will challenge anyone who reads it to evolve their workflow to be much more in sync with the flexible nature of the web. Highly recommended!