Responsive web design broke through the brittleness of earlier fixed models, using the previously obscure media queries to create fluid sites that rearranged themselves to fit whatever browser configuration needed them.
- The web is flexible by default, right? I mean it's able, if nobody designed it, if nobody showed up for work tomorrow and we were just serving plain HTML text documents to the entire internet, any screen, any device that understood HTML would be able to understand them. You know, it's the designers and the developers that kind of bring extra complexity to this medium. John Allsopp was talking about this, you know back in 2001, where he was basically saying that this is this medium that has an ebb and flow to it. This is this truly flexible, completely adaptive medium, and we should design for that.
- The web has its own inherit nature that is unique, that it's flexibility is something that we don't see anywhere else. The web sort of requires that we control as much as we can up until the point that we realize we have to relinquish control, and that we have to let the content be consumed the way our users want to consume that content, or need to consume that content. - Ever since the web was introduced it's always been this fluid environment, but I've seen a lot of designers fight back, trying to create this fixed world.
I think that, you know, the more we embrace the fluidity of the web, the easier it is to manage. - There always this tension between like, what we want the web to be and what the web just kind of is. I mean we've done this before, I mean like, you know originally it was just 4.0 browsers and we were just always sort of like, "Okay let's quarantine what we can control" right? Like, "We know that there are issues here, "there are issues here, "let's just build for those separately." And then eventually, you know, Jeffery Zeldman is like, "No, we can just sort of think across the board "and just kind of like, design more holistically." And then we did the same thing when devices came out, when we finally figured out there was actually like a mobile web out there, right? It's like, "No, we need all these massive device databases, "we need separate mobile and desktop websites, "and we need to, you know, "ensure that, you know, we're designing for those contexts." The web kind of just defies easy definition, basically is what it comes down to.
So yeah, the less things we try to control with it, I think the better we do as an industry. - The main thing that I learned working with these mobile devices is that you really can't count on anything. That was a while to get to that point, right, in my process where it's just like, "Hey maybe it's okay if things are a little broken and accept a little gray." - In the past where web design was maybe more of a one way street, where the designer was dictating the terms of engagement, saying, "Okay you're going to be able to access this website "and do what you need to do but, "you must have a fast connection, "you must have a web browser with certain capabilities, "you must have a screen that's a certain size." Now it's much more of a two way street, more of a conversation where the user's saying, "Well I'm using this browser on this kind of device or computer", and the designer's saying, "Okay I can accommodate that.
"You're not going to get the same experience "that somebody on a better browser or bigger screen's "going to get, but I'm going to make sure "you can accomplish your task." The key thing though, for a designer to be able to do that is that they have to give up the idea that there is one canonical way that this website is supposed to look or feel. There's going to be different capabilities, and that, that's not a bad thing. - The mobile web and the advent of responsive design has changed everything that we do. And so you're creating an experience once and it just works seamlessly across all platforms, and when that happens it's magic.
- As we were sort of drowning in this sea of tablets and phones, this was a way for us to address all of those once, which is a gift. And so, I had to let go of, kind of the way I liked to design, by myself in Photoshop, kind of thinking through everything and moved towards this idea of not trying to control everything in the context of one page and one set hierarchy, and one set design. But really embracing responsive web design as a practice and using all of those tools to think of pages as like networks of content and components.
The minute I did that, I sort of found a new way to control the process and to be creative within all of that, but initially thought I was terrible. It moved my cheese.
In the film, Matt Griffin knits together a narrative from dozens of conversations with important figures from throughout the web's history. He interviews Tim Berners-Lee, Denise Jacobs, Jeffrey Zeldman, Ethan Marcotte, Chris Wilson, Lyza Danger Gardner, Eric Meyer, Irene Au, Alex Russell, Trent Walton, Val Head, Jonathan Snook, and many more. The result is a series of unique insights about why the web is structured the way it is, why standards matter, how mobile disrupted everything, and why the web isn't done growing.