Maintaining Design and Development Flexibility

- Lance Johnson 02.26.2015


Think of a web designer and you instantly picture someone creative and spontaneous. Well web designers and developers are certainly creative, but they need not necessarily be spontaneous. Most web designers are disciplined in their approach whether it is in terms of creating a design and developing it into a fully functional site. That is a good quality, but being fixed in the approach is not entirely acceptable, for that inflexibility can rub off on the site you develop.

Flexibility here means adaptability, but it does not mean going into the field without a plan. Successful web developers are meticulous and also flexible, which also reflects in the work they do. 

User Centered Approach

It is normal to want to have control over the pages that you design. But that should not override the comfort or convenience of the end-user. When you design a website, the priority must be the user experience (UX). Whether you choose a fluid or responsive website design or an adaptive design, the end-users needs and demands should be your main priority.

Adaptive Vs. Responsive

When it comes to web design, adaptive and responsive don’t mean the same thing. Responsive web designs which are fluid designs are more in vogue today and preferred by many business. The problem is that a number of businesses want a responsive design, regardless of how their customers respond to it.

A responsive design is also called a fluid design for the simple reason that it is developed using CSS3 media queries that enable the site to respond in the same way for any screen size. The CSS3 queries enable you to create a flexible grid that changes the size of the text and the images to fit the screen size. In a responsive site design, you can even choose between layouts, colors and other page elements that change depending on the screen size.

An adaptive design is not fluid, but a set of static layouts that are triggered independently based on the device they are being accessed on. So this involves the creating the same kind of pages for different screen sizes, and based on where the website is accessed, the particular design is triggered.

While responsive sites give the end users the flexibility to access the site on any device and get the same results, the adaptive sites don’t. That said, adaptive sites are also user-friendly. So what approach you choose when designing a website should be based on the clients requirements and also budget. If your client has a limited budget, an adaptive design could be a better option.

Also, adaptive designs work well when the site has a number of images that don’t respond well to scaling. Remember that whichever approach you take, you give the users a positive experience even on mobile devices. 

Non-Destructive Editing Made Possible

One thing that most clients give without fail is feedback, which often results in modifications of the website design. Creating a flexible design layout helps you make the changes easily whenever your client wants them. For this, make use of shape layers, which can be re-sized to any extent, without compromising the retina display quality. You can also use specific tools and smart objects that allow you to experiment with the design before finalizing it to suit the client's requirements.

One-click editing is also made possible with smart objects, which can save you a lot of time in making repeated changes in the page.

Be Flexible

Web designers should have a flexible attitude. Wanting to control the web page and deliver a site exactly as you think it should be is not being flexible. When you are flexible, you are not stubborn about getting a specific result. Being flexible also means you need think in a specific way, to be able to do the right thing.

For instance, when designing a page, think about what its function is, and not how it should look or appear. That way, you will be flexible about the many aspects of web page design including the use of colors, the type and size of font and also the layout of the page. The font and the size of the font are very important if you want to make the site readable. At the same time, the background color and the color of the text on the pages should also be carefully chosen to make reading easier for the end-user.

Think about the function and not about the appearance. Make use of proper elements that make the page easily accessible on any device. For instance, you should avoid using HTML for presentation. Make use of the elements provided by HTML or simply use classes. You can also make use of style sheets, but ensure that you do properly only for suggesting the page layout, and not determining it or controlling it.


Keep in mind that the fonts available for Windows and Mac browsers are not always the same. Even if there are common fonts that can be used on both browsers, the font size may not exactly be the same on both. You could use CSS to explore more fonts, but not all fonts you want may be available in the supported browsers. So don’t expect the text to look identical on Mac and Windows browsers. If you want something exactly the same, then you are not being flexible.


The colors you use can be chosen based on a number of factors. You may want to pick colors based on the theme of the website, to make the site more interesting, or signify something or any other reason. With this approach, you might almost ignore user experience. Regardless of who your audience is, you should pick colors that make your website usable by all and not just some of your audience. Most importantly, avoid using colors exclusively to signify something (remember people with color blindness).

Page Layout

Be flexible when creating a page layout, for it plays a significant role in making a specific page readable to the users. Create a flexible page layout to make it easily accessible on all devices, from laptops to mobile devices to TV monitors. Take into consideration everything for the margins, the indentation of text, spacing and other page layout aspects.

Maintaining flexibility in designing and developing a website not only makes the website better accessible, it also makes your job as a designer simpler. 

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