The Web Project Guide Podcast: Episode 19: Implement the Design (w/ Ethan Marcotte)

It’s The Web Project Guide Podcast, and we made you a new episode.

If you work in web design, you know what responsive web design is. It’s a design that responds to the width of the device you’re currently using. No special mobile sites. No requests to view the page in Internet Explorer. It wasn’t just a revolutionary shift in how we treat the web, but a foundational rule in user experience design: we build sites to reach users where they are, not where we hope they’ll be.

This month, on the podcast, we talk with the person who coined the term “responsive web design:” Autogram’s Ethan Marcotte, a smart guy, a good friend, and a modest leader in all things responsive, accessible, and user-friendly.

From our interview:


So Ethan, for those who might not necessarily be deeply versed in the details of web development, explain the concept of responsive web design.


Yeah, thanks, Corey. We only have an hour, right?

No, I’ll try to do this at a high level. The web – for me, at least – has always been really interesting because it’s a completely flexible design medium. As soon as I create a web page, I have no control over how or where somebody’s going to be viewing that web page. That could relate to the device that they’re using. They could be using a laptop, computer, they could be on their phone, they could be on wifi, they could be on spotty 3G. And there’s just a tremendous lack of control that I have as a designer over the experience that I’ve built.

So responsive design was basically something that I coined to basically argue that we should be creating flexible device-agnostic experiences, that we could create something that doesn’t have an ideal width or height, but then we can use some technical pixie dust from the CSS specification to allow us to reshape our designs in intelligent ways so they can basically respond to the changing shape of a browser window or a device’s display, kind of like what Deane was doing with JavaScript back in the day. So that’s responsive design in a nutshell is kind of embracing the flexibility that’s at the heart of the web.

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