Responsive web design is dead, long live Responsive web design. Or long live adaptive, reactive or pre emptive for all that I care web design.
We have been talking about Responsive web design for quite some years now. It has been the article of Ethan Marcotte on Alistapart that got us all started and we have been selling it to clients for a long time now. I mean, four years is like ages in internet terms. But were we right to do so I ask.
The question is, should we do RWD?
If I got asked this question a year ago, I would have said yes, but nowadays I tend to disagree. The more I know about RWD, the more I think that the whole thing should be abolished.
Why do you ask; it is because I think that it is limiting us nowadays. It gets us focused on devices to which the product should respond to and makes us forget that the web IS flexible, we only forgot about it for so long that this whole RWD thing leads us to believe that we got something new. Something so new that only the most modern browsers or devices should get it.
And when we don't get to do RWD, we point people to a number of app stores to get the App. Sometimes even on the desktop...
What should we do?
Now that is a surprisingly easy one to answer, just treat the web like the medium it is. An accessible, flexible and open medium, which can be enhanced and enriched in numerous ways, without leaving anybody behind.
If we adhere to the 'dao of web design' for instance, a fourteen (14!) year old article by John Allsopp, we should get along nicely today. If we go back and try to limit the amount of data served to the user initially like we used to do in the last century then maybe we could let go of the misconception that everybody has a good connection and a modern device and just give everybody a fast experience. Even those people in the train and in rural areas, we will help the ones on really fast connections even more. When we build stuff correctly, using standards for instance, we should leave no one behind while fully supporting all of the newer browsers.
Beware though, I am not saying that everybody should or could get the same experience. What I am saying is that everybody should get the same information in a way suitable for them. So if you build from the information (or content out), you could make something that not only works on yesterdays and todays devices, but maybe on tomorrows as well.
Tomorrows devices will come in more shapes and sizes than we can think of today, so being device agnostic will be even more important in a time when TV's and watches are not the weirdest devices we have to cater for. You only have to look at the variety of devices, browsers and operating systems we need to cater for in mobile alone today to imagine what kind of variety we will have when only wearables are coming of age. So please look back as well as forward, because the sites we made back in 1995 still work better now than the crazy DHTML ones we made after that. Not to mention the flashy ones...
So are you with me? I hope you are. No more RWD, just plain old Web Design from now on.