We’ve talked a lot lately about responsive web design—and if you’ve been paying attention, you know it’s an innovation we’re pretty excited about. As Atomic’s new web development manager, I’ve noticed something else: responsive design has changed the designer-developer relationship.

It used to be that a graphic designer would create a finished Photoshop document depicting his or her vision for a site. The developer’s job was to make the site match the doc, pixel for pixel. In design school, you’d lose points for wrongly-sized columns or incorrect text. And if you were a professional developer, the consequences weren’t any friendlier.

Now, things are different. As Web platforms, screen sizes, and resolution types multiply like rabbits, a layout that looks great on one screen might not look so good on another. This means that designers and developers alike have had to learn to compromise.

Designers have to accept the fact that their designs aren’t going to be exactly the same form one viewport to the next. And developers have to realize that they can’t build a unique site for every device—coding time and costs would be way too high.

Another downer for developers: with the number of screen sizes out there, we have to give up on pixel perfection. Why? Responsive designs use percentages, rather than fixed widths, to tell browsers how to display websites. For ensuring a consistent look from one screen to the next, this is great. The problem is that when percentages aren’t expressed as whole numbers, browsers get confused. The number ends up getting rounded either up or down, meaning that sites don’t always display the way we plan. But fortunately, most of these rounding errors are usually only obvious to other keen-eyed developers.

So yes, responsive design has created some bumps in the road. But ultimately, I think it’s led to a more collaborative relationship between style-minded designers and code-bound developers. Designers still bring the initial creative force with a site mockup. But developers don’t have to follow it blindly: they’ll create a beta site, and we’ll test it on different devices to make sure all of the responsive elements work. The designer comments; the developer tweaks. We’ll go through as many iterations as we need until both sides (and of course, the customer) are happy.

And when my team’s happy, I’m happy.

Need a site that looks great on every screen? Call up Atomic and we’ll make it happen—no matter how many trials it takes.

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