Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Why our new site is amazing

I recently decided it was time for Impact Dialing to get a well-designed website. There were two principles that were important to me in this new design. First, we needed a consistent look and feel between our web site and our web application so that users wouldn't have to learn a new layout when they jumped from our site to our app. Also, we could share a common codebase between the two, reducing development and maintenance, and making our app load more quickly. Second, we needed to use responsive design, which adapts pages to different-sized screens without using a completely different design. That way, our site would work well on mobile, tablet, and desktop sites, and even work well if some new device or format pops up that uses a completely new screen size. 

Some don't like responsive designs because they usually create a layout for a desktop, and then re-arrange, re-size, and hide page elements for progressively smaller screens. The problem is that smaller devices, with slower connections, still have to download all of the larger code. I found a "mobile-first" template called 320 and up (mobile screens are often 320 pixels wide) with which you create your mobile site first, and then progressively load more and bigger elements as your screen size increases. This way, your site loads quickly on mobile devices, while still keeping the advantages of responsive design.

Best of all, I managed to hire the designer of 320 and up, Andy Clarke of Stuff and Nonsense. He built our new site in less than a week, using 320 and up as a the starting point. Check it out here. If you don't have a mobile phone or tablet to try it with, open it in a desktop window, and then slowly resize the window to make it smaller. You'll see how the site responds to smaller and smaller screen sizes. 

One exciting part of having a responsive site is that our web application now works on phones. Many of the political consultants we've been talking with have been excited about the idea that volunteers can use our hosted predictive dialer with just their smart phone. 

Let us know what you think of the new site!