Back in October, Ethan Marcotte asked me some questions about the design of my site. He was writing a round up of his twenty favourite responsive websites for .net Magazine and wanted quotes from each creator. In the spirit of blogging more I thought I’d share my answers here.

Why did you choose a responsive approach?

My personal site has always been a place to try out new technology and techniques. As a site that is largely text based, I was also keen to take a content first approach.

Was there one especially tricky challenge that came out of adopting a responsive approach? If so, how did you solve it?

I think navigation is often a sticky point in responsive designs, and although my website is small, I was surprised that this still presented a challenge. The breakthrough came when I decided which sections of my site were less important. It turned out that I was already linking to these in the footer, meaning I could exclude them from the main navigation and only show them when there was enough room.

Did you learn anything from the site’s design you’d apply to future responsive projects?

In taking on a responsive project I quickly realised that resizing the browser window doesn’t give you a true feel for how a site will perform in the real world; input methods and bandwidth availability alter the experience as much as any viewport dimension. As I developed the site I ‘field tested’ it when out and about; reading pages on the train or borrowing other peoples devices. This way I got to see how the site would appear in environments I don’t use myself.

Whilst I tried to take a purely content driven approach, where the layout would adapt based on the constraints provided by the content, pragmatism took hold, and my breakpoints were soon adjusted. I found that I needed to strike a balance between what worked best for the content, and what worked best for different devices. I imagine my breakpoints will evolve as I continue to experience the site on different devices.

I should also fess up; I started with a mostly desktop orientated design! Yet whenever I came across a tricky responsive design issue, I found refactoring my code to assume a linear ‘mobile first’ layout forced me to question the relative importance of every element. The delete key became an important ally.