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The obsession with responsive websites

06 Sep 2012

For good or bad, Ethan Marcotte coined the term Responsive Web Design a while ago and from that point, #RWD was plastered across tutorials, Twitter, conferences, I think some people even got "RWD4 LYFE" tattooed across their knuckles. People went crazy for it.

The humble pixel was outcast as villainous, inflexible and just plain wrong. Ems and percentages were the new kings, proudly thrust forward into stylesheets everywhere for type, layout and grids.

But I think, somewhere along the line, people got silly.

Now, no one is going to take my opinions in this article seriously unless I provide examples of what I mean. By doing this, I'm going to have to link to certain sites that highlight my point. I really do hope that the owners and designers of these sites do not take offense to my words, it's not personal.

My first issue: big sites.

The thinking before RWD fever hit, was that mobile and narrow viewports were the afterthought in design and development. You would slap a 960px width on your '.wrap' DIV and ahhh, most monitors and resolutions accounted for...bliss. Then people found Mobile First and Adaptive approaches and yes, fair enough, the web got better. Much better.

The current state of the web is that people are far more conscientious about mobile and take great care in not constricting their designs and catering for a much wider audience, even people grabbing a drink from the fridge. But, on the flip side, it seems to have gone full circle and we're so focussed on 'small' that we've forgotten about 'big'.

These sites are not best viewed on a 21"+ iMac -

I know right, you have to sit back to avoid being punched in the face by the font size.

This tweet from Mark Collins is in reference to the last link. 1700px width inputs! That's twice as big as the average site.

There's nothing wrong with putting a 'max-width: 1300px;' on your sites. Don't be afraid of the pixel.

My second issue: Attitude towards non-responsive designs

How many sites a day do you pull in the bottom right corner of your browser window on? All of them? Maybe so.

The first thought across some people's mind is "Tut, it's not responsive", whilst they blindly disregard the rest of the design. Wrong. Please don't get into a habit of doing this. Your users don't do it, nor should you.

My third issue: lack of design in responsive sites

This quote from David Bushell pretty much sums it up:

With so much focus on pure content we're in danger of losing our license to design. The supposedly superficial 'decoration' is what makes a website compelling in a bustling commercial environment.

From his article.

Design with mobile in mind? Sure. But design it, don't just make it accessible.

Final thoughts

Design with your users in mind. Don't just design to be included in a "Top 30 Responsive Sites" post, or wildly jam a jQuery plugin in which inflates your type to fit any resolution (112px is too big).

And please, does anyone like form controls? Who decided that navigation would be nice as a <select> element on mobile?


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