It used to go like this: You want a new website. You go to your favorite St. Louis web development firm. They build the main site for a desktop computer screen, then they go back through that design and make it responsive for smaller technology – smart phones and tablets. They essentially build two sites for one site.

That same process would work if people were still accessing the internet on desktops. But a growing number are not. And we have noticed for a while now that we can sometimes achieve more by starting with the small screen in mind and building out from there.

This new approach was reinforced at a workshop I attended by our local AIGA-St. Louis chapter on responsive web design. Responsive design is the buzzword in the industry right now. The workshop, led by Brian Wood, started with a simple question:

How are a majority of customers viewing your website?

That led to other questions: what percentage of customers will be viewing the website on an iPhone, or an iPad for that matter? 50 percent? Or is it more like 80 percent? In a growing number of cases, it might actually make more sense to be starting small and going big, as opposed to the opposite many of us have been trained to do.

To some designers and developers, this seems a bit shocking. Design a mobile layout, first? Not the big dog 1500-pixel grand screen version? Well, yes you will still need to have that, but if most of your customers are viewing you small scale, you need to create it in that fashion. It makes sense.

While it may be a tough thing to get your head around, it is also easier. Taking a smaller website layout and extending it into a larger format is easier than trying to take a large site and cram it down to a smaller one. And now with so many tools available on Adobe Creative Cloud, like Reflow, seeing the ways that the site can function and expand are even easier. Reflow also allows you to answer another age old question from clients before launch: “What’s it going to look like? Can I see where that link goes?”

If you’re a designer or a developer, tinker around with the latest tools in the on Adobe’s Creative Cloud site. And if you’re hiring a development firm or building your own site, make sure you start by asking how your customers will see your site. You may be better off starting small.

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art director/design master/dog whisperer