Responsive Comping Is A Game-Changer

Posted on Friday, September 4, 2015 by Craig Chapman
the same website displayed on different devices

Our website design process has evolved over the past few years. Justin, our in-house innovator, provided impetus for streamlining the evolution from development to presentation. Justin had been after me for a couple years to implement responsive comping, but it wasn’t until I came to understand that this would actually save us time and money, that I finally said “yes.”

In years past, we’d email a wireframe document (similar to an organizational chart), and wait for the decision-maker's approval. Customers were often confused and underwhelmed. Either we or the client would request an onsite meeting. We’d try to bridge the gap between concept and comprehension with laser pointers .... hand gestures ... animated facial expressions. It soon hit us: visuals were essential to speaking the same language or losing time and money in the translation.

The next great leap forward was the practice of uploading a static site accessible via a password-protected webpage. Clients ‘got’ what the site would look like, but feedback frequently included comments such as: “It looks like what we agreed on, but it doesn’t work.”  The biggest obstacle to getting the signoff during design conferences was the disconnect between how the site appears on a static page and how it will ultimately function as a live website. Customers would often resort to printing out the static comps; which always created confusion and caused delays. Justin resumed the call for responsive comping with near-evangelical zeal, citing posts such as Matt Griffin’s in A List Apart .

Remember my “Getting Out Of The Way” post? It’s a journey, people.

Responsive comping is basically designing inside the browser; presenting the design to the customer in the medium in which it’s intended to be viewed. As Matt Griffin says in his A List Apart article on this topic, “Instead of asking our clients to pretend that an image is a website, we show them… a website.”

Since switching to designing websites in the browser, we've realized a lot of benefits that come from a fundamental streamlining of the process. We no longer need to create physical samples of the website's responsive design as it appears on different mobile devices, because our customers see their website design on any device or any screen they happen to be using. Best of all: they no longer are printing out sheets which skew how the web site will really look when it goes live. 

Because the content of the site dictates what the site design will ultimately look like, and how the navigation functions, designing websites directly in the browser fits seamlessly into our agile development process, saving both iterations and time. 

We've had great results with responsive comping these past two years.  As a business owner, I'm always looking for the most efficient methods of improving customer experience and satisfaction. As creative director, I'm always looking for the best ways to convey our ideas to our customers in the most understandable and concise manner.

Designing websites in the browser has been a total game changer, and I can no longer imagine doing it any other way.

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