Is it too soon to call this book seminal? A decade ago, Jeffrey Zeldman's Designing WIth Web Standards certainly fit that description, convincing manyIs it too soon to call this book seminal? A decade ago, Jeffrey Zeldman's Designing WIth Web Standards certainly fit that description, convincing many of us to drop our table-based layouts in favour of accessible, standards-compliant CSS layouts. By my estimation Ethan Marcotte's 'Responsive Web Design' looks set to become just as formative by calling for another new approach to designing websites - this time, one better suited to the ever-increasing number of devices and browsers that people use to access the internet. This is an easygoing introduction to a new way of working - brief, clear and softened with Ethan's I-know-what-you're-thinking wit - a welcome ingredient, incidentally, given all the ingrained habits that may have to be unlearned.
If you're anything like me, you'll have resisted fluid layouts for as long as possible, feeling that a great-looking site only really looks best at one resolution: the one it was designed for. After all, the alternative - page elements lost in a sea of whitespace and line lengths too wide to be comfortably read, or content constricted into squashed-up columns, images cropped awkwardly or poking out where they shouldn't - well let's just say these have never been happy places for the designer pathological about presentation. Fortunately such concerns need no longer hold us back, thanks to that devastatingly useful W3C construct, the CSS media query. Layout approaching breaking point? No problem - set a break point. Adjust. And you're done.
This is a great little book, but it's worth stressing that Ethan makes the case for fully responsive websites using relative font sizes, fluid grids and flexible images, and also encourages a mobile-first approach to web design and agile development processes - things that may require a new mindset as much as a new workflow. There is, however, an opposing school of thought that says much of this is unnecessary and that adaptive layouts - ie. targeting specific devices or resolutions, perhaps using media queries to set break points for different fixed width layouts - is perfectly adequate. Although fine for some websites, I don't happen to think this is a particularly viable approach in the long term - nevertheless it would have been nice to have read a bit more about this in the book.
That said, even if you're more of an adaptive than a responsive person, this is still absolutely worth the read as it covers the nuts and bolts of what you'll need to know. It takes no more than a couple of hours, and it might convince you that going fully responsive isn't so drastic after all....more