A Dao of Web Design

Twelve years later, John Allsopp’s classic post A Dao of Web Design is still probably the best argument for Responsive Design:

Perhaps the inability to “control” a page is a limitation, a bug of the web. When we come from the WYSIWYG world, our initial instinct is to think so. I admit that it was my first response, and a belief that was a long time in going. But I no longer feel that it is a limitation, I see it as a strength of a new medium.

Let’s look at this through the other end of the microscope. The fact we can control a paper page is really a limitation of that medium. You can think – we can fix the size of text – or you can think – the size of text is unalterable. You can think – the dimensions of a page can be controlled – or – the dimensions of a page can’t be altered. These are simply facts of the medium.

And they aren’t necessarily good facts, especially for the reader. If the reader’s eye sight isn’t that of a well sighted person, chances are the choice the designer made is too small to comfortably read without some kind of magnification. If the reader is in a confined space, a train to work, an airplane, the broadsheet newspaper is too large. And there is little the reader can do about this.

The control which designers know in the print medium, and often desire in the web medium, is simply a function of the limitation of the printed page. We should embrace the fact that the web doesn’t have the same constraints, and design for this flexibility. But first, we must “accept the ebb and flow of things”.

With the modern world of different devices and form factors, it is definitely time to leave the pixel-perfect dreams behind and let your designs adapt.

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