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(Responsive) Web Design

There’s lots of discussion around the intertubes at the moment around Responsive: what it is and how we define it. Over the past few days, more of the heavyweights of the web development and design industry have chimed in. Here's a quick round-up of who said what.

One viewpoint is that Responsive Web Design is really just good web design or web design done right. Back in July 2011, Andy Hume wrote about being Responsive by default, and how the principles and ideas are behind it are core to what we do as a web developers. A few months before that, Andy Clarke was saying similar things:

Web design is responsive design, Responsive Web Design is web design, done right.

(Specific) Responsive Web Design

In his post “Evolving Responsive Web Design”, Blue Beanie man Jeffrey Zeldman talks about how, although the Responsive Web Design is good web design (and vice versa), Responsive as a thing in itself is important. He insightfully points out that the reason RWD has caught on is because of the specific definition that Ethan Marcotte set up:

If Ethan hadn’t included three simple executional requirements as part of his definition, the concept might have quickly fallen by the wayside.

Mark Boulton brings that around to the business side of things, reminding us that it matters what clients think, and they’re beginning to know about the term responsive, and ask for it:

You see, responsive design is a useful term and one that will stick around for a while whilst we’re going through this change. How else do we describe it, otherwise? Web design? I don’t think so. No board member is going to get behind that; it’s not new enough.

(Device-agnostic) Responsive Web Design

Trent Walton’s article, Device Agnostic, rounds the discussion off nicely, and is well worth a read. He talks about the number of variables and unknowns that we have to take into account (screen resolution, input method, browser capability, connection speed):

With such a wide range of possibilities, the sensible thing to do is to zero in on the harshest conditions (or toughest things to deliver) and build from there.

He talks about Hostile Browsers: how a user’s choice of browser can sometimes be acting against design and modern web technologies. He also talks about flux. See Frank Chimero’s beautiful essay What Screens Want for more about that.

Trent also offers a timely reminder that it’s not all about the new and shiny:

As web designers, it is our role to consider (and plan for) maximum reach and access, even when final results might seem underwhelming or less immersive.