I have been working as a UI/ UX engineer for more than three years. Three years aren't enough to have great knowledge but I have good knowledge on giving the user a good visual experience and a good experience while using the apps or web-sites I have developed.

I am now searching for a new job. I have been asked often if not most of the time on what is responsive design? I think the people who conduct interviews come in with a few points on responsive web-design and expect the candidate to answer those specific points. RWD(Responsive web-design) is a vast subject and keeps evolving from time to time. Which brings me to a quote from Albert Einstein "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." RWD is a highly subjective topic and doesn't have any hard and fast rules for its creation. I cannot copy Apple's website for my client and expect him to reap profits same as Apple. It works for Apple because it is Apple. I truly believe that there are no such hard and fast rules for RWD and that design and UX shall always evolve through time. Now what happens in the interview: I explain a few points and give them a few examples of good UI/ UX web-apps, websites and apps even quote a few designers, so far it's not been fruitful.

My question to everyone here?

How will you summarise in a few points what is responsive web-design?

  • 1
    I took the question to be different: "What are employers looking for when they ask you what responsive design is in an interview context?" The question behind the question - how do you approach responsive design? – LindaCamillo Jan 21 '14 at 14:02
  • 2
    Its a question I toss around when I interview candidates. No one's ever nailed a reply. It all boils down to how you approach it. The idea I do look for in replies (from a designer) are "optimizing content for multiple devices and resolutions". At the end of the day that's what RWD is for - how we deliver the right content to the audience. Design is about creating the optimized experience. – Rayraegah Jan 21 '14 at 14:40
  • @Rayraegah: I doubt this would work with people having a prejudice on this subject, which most people have, I talk with developers, H.R and interview consultants who have limited or no knowledge on this subject. – Jezza Jan 21 '14 at 15:03
  • 2
    You are being interviewed for an UX post in said scenario? convince them to see the truth in what you say - educate them beyond their bullet list. No one's going to refuse an insightful candidate. I personally wouldn't. Then again I don't send a half-knowledge person to conduct an interview and definitely not stick to some bullet list for an answer. – Rayraegah Jan 21 '14 at 15:23
  • It's the sad state of affairs where I stay, interviews are out-sourced to consulting companies. I'll definitely wear them down(Denny Crane style!) by explaining them my thoughts. – Jezza Jan 21 '14 at 15:34

Having been asked this question in the recent past, I sense that when potential employers ask this question they are asking if the candidate understands how to balance business requirements with user needs. Responsive design is just another platform for describing your teamwork approach in an interview.

They're not looking for a technical explanation or a definition.

I would approach it from the business perspective. Responsive design is a UX strategy that needs to be considered throughout a project's lifecycle, because we have no control over browser choice, window resizing, or the device our users will be accessing our site or application, but we want it to work well regardless. Having an effective strategy requires understanding your users, some knowledge of the context of use, and what the key tasks are that you are optimizing for.

Then talk briefly about the user research you would do, how you would select which devices to optimize for, the need to select the right layouts, how you would partner with a visual designer and your UI developer, and how you would approach testing and analytics. That will demonstrate to the team that you understand what's involved in thinking through all the considerations that will impact the success of the project.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Thanks for the answer! It sums very well what I should be talking about. I will think more about what you wrote. – Jezza Jan 21 '14 at 14:21
  • Good luck in your interviews, @Vinoth ! – LindaCamillo Jan 21 '14 at 18:12

The design of a website where the layout responds accordingly based on the size of the device screen being used to view the website to provide a better user experience.

Doesn't get much simpler than that.

| improve this answer | |

If I were interviewing someone to my team, and asked them: "Explain to your computer-illiterate aunt what is responsive web design", this what I would be expecting.

Responsive web design is creating a web site that looks & feels great whether your accessing the site using your desktop computer or your shiny new iphone.

I would then ask the person to describe it in technical terms (to validate if he/she knows what he/she is talking about). So I would be looking for something like

Responsive web design is simply using standard web technology like html, css, and javascript to create applications that look & feel great on several form factors, meaning that as a front-end developer I would only implement one application version, but it would adapt itself depending on the screen real estate available on the end-user device. Usually you use CSS media queries to accomplish this, since they let you specify conditions like screen width when a style is applied.

One advantage is having a single code base to work on. But this is not a silver bullet. You really have to think through the information you want to show when you don't have lots of screen real estate, so sometimes is preferable to have more than one code base, since this allows you to focus on the experience for a given device.

Another reason for developing a native applications instead of using responsive web design, is to implement applications that use the resources of the device (like accessing to contacts, control screen brightness, ...)

| improve this answer | |

What I have done and worked in the past, is instead of replying with words, mine or others', I took the phone out of my pocket and showed them what I had actually done; not much, admittedly (most stuff was in-house, boring, web apps) but it did the trick.

| improve this answer | |

First - you need to understand what Responsive Web Design is NOT. Its not a Fluid layout. Its not a Design. Its not a Framework. It is not just progressive enhancement or graceful degradation.

From my perspective:

Responsive Web Design is a design approach which prioritizes on giving the user an optimal viewing/reading and navigational experience across multiple devices and screen resolutions by utilizing many design concepts.

The goal of RWD is to have one content base with multiple 'disconnected' views. The word responsive signifies that your content responds to the user's current view (i.e. resolution, capabilities etc.) and the design process is all about optimizing and creating said/anticipated views.

| improve this answer | |
  • How can it not be progressive enhancement? We have a huge shift in the way mobile operating systems are designed. Android 2.2 to 3.x or 4.x, same for iOS 6 to iOS 7 is progressive enhancement mobiles now display more information or less information in the small screen. – Jezza Jan 21 '14 at 14:58
  • Progressive enhancement is one of the many concepts used to create an RWD. RWD is not just progressive enhancement. Its more than that. – Rayraegah Jan 21 '14 at 15:13
  • 1
    @vinoth 'progressive enhancement' is more about how to offer up a more robust solution to those using more robust browsers. It's tangental to RWD, but in many ways a separate concept that had a lot to do with really crappy web browsers in the past. – DA01 Jan 21 '14 at 15:46
  • @DA01 that's exactly what I would like to give as an answer. – Jezza Jan 21 '14 at 15:54
  • @Vinoth but that doesn't answer RWD. Another way to put it: progressive enhancement is independent of the device or screen size. Where as RWD is a concept that has device and screen sizes integral to the definition. – DA01 Jan 21 '14 at 17:08

In the context of a job interview, I'd explain it as:

A pragmatic way to build a web site for a client that will reach a wide number of users and devices and will prevent the need for maintaining two code bases and paying two separate development teams and the added overhead in both time and cost involved with keeping two parallel (mobile vs. desktop) solutions in relatively feature parity.

I'd then go on to explain how the last 3 gigs at fortune 500 companies decided to go the split route (mobile app or site vs. the desktop one) and the numerous foibles that went along with that decision.

| improve this answer | |
  • Put simply if I'm a car designer and repairing the suspension needs me to lift out the engine from its bay, my design is a failure. Is this what you are conveying? – Jezza Jan 21 '14 at 15:50
  • @Vinoth no. Well, I don't think so. Analogies are tricky, but...if we stick with cars, it'd be like you having to buy one car for use on even days of the week, and one car for use on odd days of the week...rather than just paying and maintaining one car that you can use on both. – DA01 Jan 21 '14 at 17:07

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.