Today the smart folks at A Book Apart have taken the wraps off their fourth entry in the series, Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design. I was fortunate enough to provide some feedback on an early draft, and I suspect it’s quickly going to become the canonical text on the subject.
Every so often something rolls around that makes the field feel new, and for me, this is most definitely it. Moreover, I hope it marks the beginning of a renewed awareness—and embrace of—the inherent fluidity of the Web.
There’s been some great discussion on the topic of Responsive Web Design since Ethan first introduced us to it on A List Apart, and it’s been reminding me about our history. We arrived at the current, relatively rigid state of Web design out of a desire to impose order on a medium that began life as chaotic and wildly inarticulate (from a designer’s perspective). The Web was fluid by nature, but the tools were desperately primitive. The only way to keep the limitations and randomness from impeding your content was to lock down one side of the equation. We couldn’t control the browsers, so we bolted down the designs.
But the game has changed. Browsers have gotten, dare I say, pretty damn good. And a whole host of robust tools and devices have arrived that allow users to passively view, actively consume, or deliberately repurpose as they see fit. The fantasy we once coveted, of a perfectly reproducible canvas painted in pixels, has given way to a breathing reality mitigated by circumstance and conditions we will not be able to anticipate.