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This article was published on April 6, 2012

Digital ad agency R/GA Chicago talks emerging tech, HTML5, Flash & their latest work

Digital ad agency R/GA Chicago talks emerging tech, HTML5, Flash & their latest work
Harrison Weber
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Harrison Weber

Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email. Harrison Weber is TNW's Features Editor in NYC. Part writer, part designer. Stay in touch: Twitter @harrisonweber, Google+ and Email.

R/GA is an international digital advertising agency with massive influence across the globe. The agency has worked with major brands like Nike, Verizon and HBO, and now its Chicago branch has just finished its latest work with Grey Goose, which taps emerging technologies for a fully responsive experience on any device.

The team set out to create something nimble and prepared for the future, which is exactly why they tapped HTML5. The Next Web spoke with Micah Topping, R/GA Technical Director, to get an inside look on what decisions were made and how the gorgeous site was created.

HW: What sort of challenges did R/GA run into using emerging technologies?

MT: The greatest challenge in implementing emerging technologies is in quickly getting an understanding of any relevant limitations and dependencies. Utilizing multiple new technologies and techniques was made easier by isolating potential problem areas and generating prototypes to experiment and prove techniques.

For example, we created a mock-version of the homepage to work with the creative teams to establish the ideal rate of motion and movement in the parallax scrolling, and another to showcase layout changes in the responsive design. This gave everyone involved a single point of reference for conversation, and enabled us to conduct live-coding sessions to work out interaction details focused on one aspect of the site at a time.

Prototyping early was also essential to creating reliable workflows for asset creation and content updates. When working on a content-driven site, you have to consider how content will be created and understand the implications of the decisions that are baked into templates, and the way designers produce assets.

HW: Could you describe why you decided to avoid flash?

MT: We didn’t decide against using Flash from an evangelical point of view. One of our primary goals in the site design and development was to remain device agnostic, and Flash is limiting in that regard. By using less-proprietary technologies we faced less limitations in how our content could be consumed. This was the central driving force in pursuing a responsive design in the first place.

Secondly, GreyGoose.com is built to deliver continually fresh and relevant content. By using standard web technologies, we can remain nimble to new content types and formats, allowing us to more quickly create new experiences while maximizing reuse of code, templates and assets.

HW: Should every site be a responsive design?

MT: No thing should always be any thing. Responsive design is exciting for us because it resonates with our view of a web built in a “future-friendly” way to provide an ideal experience for everyone, regardless of device or context. Responsive design is, in that sense, an extension of accessibility.

That said, we feel it should be considered for any new site design but isn’t necessarily required. Once you’ve visited a few responsive sites on your phone or tablet, you immediately cringe when you have to pinch and zoom to read an article on a non-responsive site. Ensuring a consistent experience for the consumer – however they may choose to access your site – is vital, especially as mobile becomes more prevalent and is often the vehicle by which users follow shared links.

HW: Did you tap into any pre-existing plugins or frameworks that you’d like to share?

MT: Modernizr, Typekit, HTML5 Boilerplate, JWPlayer, jQuery and some select plugins, including Galleria, jQuery BBQ, Uniform, FancyBox and Throttle.

Topping’s balanced view of the digital space serves in strong contrast to many developers that tend to side violently for or against Flash’s ongoing development as a tool for creating interactive experiences.

Staying device agnostic is exactly the main benefit of HTML5, despite its young age. What matters the most to users, though, isn’t the technology we use, but the experience it provides. That’s the only reason why Flash or even HTML5 (+ CSS3 + Javascript) will be replaced someday.

For more, check out this list of Design Inspiration by TNW.

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