In Defense of Irresponsive Web Design.

I’ve been meaning to write a post deriding the stampede to embrace responsive web design since the euonymous A List Apart article from the talented Mr. Ethan Marcotte last year. Despite the title of this post, it is not the post I hoped to eventually write, which, is tentatively titled “Practical Limitations of Responsive Web Design.”

However. Recently, the two most vocal proponents—the aforementioned Marcotte and the equally talented Mr. Jeremy Keith—have clarified the notion of responsive web design to remove any ambiguity about what it does not attempt to do. Specifically, responsive web design enables layouts capable of adapting to the viewport but offers precious little in the way of addressing issues of context and bandwidth.

And, moreover, they emphatically state that while responsive web design is a tool that often makes sense, that does not mean it is the only solution nor always the best solution. Marcotte:

Because maybe your site is better served by a separate mobile site than by a responsive approach. Or maybe the reverse is true: maybe a responsive approach is more appropriate. The moral here is that you should tailor the approach to the project, and put the polemic aside. Because nobody knows your project, your audience, better than you do.

Maybe I’ll write that post someday, the one that, channeling my inner Merlin, talks about solving the right web design problem at the right web design level. Until then, it’s comforting to see those with the largest soapboxes taking pains to disassociate responsive web design from magic.