While designers are flocking to embrace all that is good about responsive web design, many have forgotten that at its core the web has always been responsive and it’s us that stopped it always being so.

It was the announcement from Mark Boulton Design recently that they’d won the dream project working for CERN and that would include updating some of the pages that are from the beginning of internet time – created by Tim Berners Lee himself that got me thinking about the very basic building blocks again.

As a designer, I’ve recently spent a lot of time being blasted from all angles on Twitter and blogs etc with statements, snippets, tricks, tips and conference blurb about one web, making things responsive, adaptive, RESS development and so on. It’s all good stuff but it’s bloody confusing trying to make sense of it all sometimes because quite simply – the rule book is being written as we go along and technology and technique improve with every build.

So yes, it’s confusing and easy to drown in a sea of information right now but I’ve recently found that the more Jeremy Keith speaks about “one web” and the underlying principles the more it resonates and I chill out a little about some of the finer points of the rule book and worry a little less because what might be the spot on CSS technique as I write this might be painfully unsuitable for my very next project in a few weeks time. It’s the very basic core structure of a website that no matter what happens next is going to be the tool you work with most.

Your site is already 100% responsive on any device!

Yep, you know that HTML, the thing pages have been made of since the dawn of internet time? It’s as device agnostic as you can get.

I posted this recently on Twitter:

#Protip Make your website fit in with the latest trend of “being responsive” by simply removing your stylesheet.*

Yes it was tongue in cheek but I also meant it. Try it on your site (use the web developer tools add-on to disable stylesheets – Chrome/Firefox), play around with it – get right back to basics and make sure your HTML makes sense because once it REALLY makes sense and is structured well you can practically do anything with it.

* You might want a very small CSS “max-width:100%” tweak to give your images some flexibility but apart from that, you’re good.

That layer of visual beauty we’ve added over the years is the simply the separation of design from content (as it should be) and it introduced fixed widths, inflexible images by adding widths and heights but it’s not a big deal. The truly responsive web has always been there and it’s just waiting for us to rediscover it but first we might need to give our HTML a bit of love and attention to make a strong foundation to rebuild on top of.

So many devices – they’ll all run HTML though

I thought it was tricky testing websites in a few versions of IE, Firefox, Chrome etc but now if you really want to push the boat out you’re going to have get a big TV with a web browser, a million different phones and tablets and god only knows what else.

That’s probably not practical but at least if you’ve gone back and revisited the core HTML of a site, you stand a better chance of things making sense to all these devices.

Falling back in love with the basics

Forgive the rambling nature of this post and the stating of the obvious, I just wanted to vocalise that I’ve got back into groove regarding the fundamentals and I’m re-learning and re-working code to build a better base for sites because it’s the only way not to feel like I’m drowning in a sea of information and best practice from a rule book that’s probably changed in the two days it’s taken for me to write this post.

What about you?

How are you getting on with digesting and staying up to date with the immense amount of information and practice of responsive web design?

James Young

Written by James Young

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