All across the web design universe, the new hotness appears to be "responsive design". As soon as Ethan Marcotte uttered those magic words, they swept over web designers as if it was some great epiphany that we all had together: "Let's make websites work well on all devices!" My inner teenager wants to give you all a sarcastic smirk and exclaim "DUH!"
Fads are juvenile things. One person does something that is deemed "cool" by the majority, and then everyone attempts their best imitation (some are decent, some are just plain awful) of the original. As a designer, I take pride in original ideas and well thought out concepts; I don't put much stock in fads. They tend to flame out quickly, and are usually a waste of time (not to mention that they aren't necessarily a good idea in the first place - mullets, anyone?). Because of this, I didn't initially give "Responsive Design the fad" much attention at all - I simply went about my business as usual.
As I read more articles and put some of the ideas of responsive design into use (and attended an Event Apart to hear Ethan Marcotte himself speak on it), I began to realize that even though a lot of my peers were treating it as a fad, I didn't see it as one at all. I saw it as simply the next step in the definition of what web design is.
To understand what I mean by the next step, we have to understand that the web is a fluid medium from the ground up. It's not like print, where technology has simply been refined for decades, but remains essentially the same as it was 50 years ago. The web continually "reinvents the printing press" with new technology, new approaches and new delivery methods. As we all move to mobile, responsive design simply begins to make more and more sense in the real world.
Old school web design had us creating websites that were more or less a fixed appearance, and required the devices themselves to make the best with what they were given. This isn't a very forward thinking approach, as it very much limits what each device can view ideally; who wants to pinch and zoom their way through every website out there?
Responsive design removes the device from the responsibility of providing a "good enough" experience, and hands it back to the designer, who can tailor a design that is ideal at any size. It isn't a new technique, so much as it is a refinement of existing principles.
Regardless of the varied opinions the web design community has about it, it's very difficult to believe that responsive design will simply fade away like some other "fads". The mobile web is here to stay, and we have to account for it in our designs. Unless we want to go back to creating separate mobile sites with separately curated content, it's time for the term "responsive design" to be absorbed into web design as a whole - to become a standard practice for any designer worth their salt. It just makes sense.
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