The Evolution of Responsive Web Design: A Very Brief History

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The Evolution of Responsive Web Design: A Very Brief History

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The Evolution of Responsive Web Design: A Very Brief History

Responsive web design or RWD has not been around for long. Developed in the early 2010’s, it came about as the interaction between humans and mobile devices evolved. RWD makes for an interesting topic because it is not a concrete concept and is currently changing. Therefore, let’s take a more zen or here & now approach to understanding it.

In essence, RWD is a method of design, which hopes to achieve an optimal user experience on any device. In the previous nuts and bolts of this process, webmasters were creating multiple versions of a website based on different devices and tactile functions. The biggest issue with the multiple site approach is that each version of a site exists independently from one another, thus making harder to keep up with technology as it progresses. For practicality reasons, it also can become very costly to hire a developer for every upgrade and change.

A newer approach to RWD was developed by Ethan Marcotte, author of Responsive Web Design (2011). He defines RWD through fluid layouts, flexible images and media queries. Without having a starting point for standards, there would be too many factors for developers to consider. “Responsible” responsive design and adaptive content allows for a standard approach. Now there is only one design for all devices. RWD has become so ubiquitous that the latest Google update will penalize any website that does not feature RWD.

This is not a punishment but rather a push for sites to stay with the changing times. According to comScore, the number of global users using mobile has already eclipsed desktop use in 2014.


Image via Business Insider

Although RWD is new and has changed for the better, there are still some things it does not completely address yet. Some of the problems include the importance of ad placement and elements on a page. It also does not allow sites to maintain their unique design.

 In the grand scheme of things, aside from the technical ingredients, it is important to keep in mind the relationship between web design and technology. It is a dynamic relationship in constant flux. Right now is an exciting time to see what the future of RWD will bring. Some argue that the term Responsive will be obsolete because it will be the default setting while others see it as a way of describing the natural ebb and flow between technology and web design. Responsive web design is more than a technical set of rules. It is a flexible approach to thinking about design in the present moment and the not too distant future.

If you’re not on the responsive bandwagon yet, give us a call and we’ll guide you through the process.

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