The what and why of web design

Desktops, laptops, tablets, televisions, mobile phones, phablets and now even watches. There are more internet enabled devices in the market today, than ever before. And a gag these days is:

So you want to be a web designer? This is what you will be dealing with:

The viewport landscape
Image Source: Gareth Williams

From 300 pixels to a whopping 2000 pixels — that’s the range over which web content can be viewed today. Making sure all users get an optimum experience on their devices is by far the biggest challenge designers and developers face. And if there is one buzzword that has been floating around to combat this challenge, it is ‘Responsive Web Design’.

A single site that magically adjusts to whatever device screen is used to hit it.

Responsive frameworks. Media Queries. JavaScript Hacks.

Ever since Ethan Marcotte first coined the term Responsive Web Design in his now very famous article, a plethora of tools have sprung up, to make the process of creating a responsive website less painful.

But do we really understand what is responsive design, and why we are talking about it? All too often web designers & developers have tended to look at a responsive website as a chore, or worse — an afterthought. Define a few break-points and apply a few readily available tools to make sure everything looks okay.

The fundamental purpose of a website has always been about communication and interaction. But somewhere along the way, reusable code has killed the craft of true designers. This is not to say that reusable code is bad. What matters is that content is accessible, and interfaces are usable. That is what web design has always been about.

In his article A Dao of Web Design*, John Allsopp wrote:

Make pages which are accessible, regardless of the browser, platform or screen that your reader chooses or must use to access your pages. This means pages which are legible regardless of screen resolution or size, or number of colors (and remember too that pages may be printed, or read aloud by reading software, or read using braille browsers). This means pages which adapt to the needs of a reader, whose eyesight is less than perfect, and who wishes to read pages with a very large font size.

To call ourselves designers, it is imperative to internalize the why, and what of web design, before diving into the how aspect of it. To address this within our organisation, we organised a workshop with a live case study on the meaning of ‘Responsive Web Design’.

It was an interesting session, with lots of insights being shared. And we like to share our discussion with you. So here’s the accompanying presentation for our workshop. We hope you find as much value in it, as we did.


* A Dao of Web Design is a must read for all web designers. If web design was a religion, this article would probably qualify as a scripture.

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Kasturika

Pretends to be a designer by day. Turns into a blogger by night. Loves to sing, sketch, read and write. Likes ancient architecture and classical music. Collects old coins and seashells.