I’ve noticed a lot of people feeling like they can’t keep up with the pace of change and technology in web design right now, sometimes I feel the same and I’m lucky because I have more time than many to try and keep up. Don’t worry, you’re not as far behind as you think.
Miranda Priestly: [Miranda and some assistants are deciding between two similar belts for an outfit. Andy sniggers because she thinks they look exactly the same] Something funny?
Andy Sach: No. No, no. Nothing’s… You know, it’s just that both those belts look exactly the same to me. You know, I’m still learning about all this stuff and, uh…
Miranda Priestly: ‘This… stuff’? Oh. Okay. I see. You think this has nothing to do with you.
You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean.
And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it who showed cerulean military jackets? I think we need a jacket here.
And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff. The Devil Wears Prada
My shameful secret is that this is actually one of my favourite quotes from a film. It’s from The Devil Wears Prada. The film is amusing enough but that quote perfectly encapsulates not just the fashion industry (the subject of the film) but if you transpose a few words here and there, it does a pretty good job of explaining some of the layers within the web industry too.
I am lucky, I get to read about and experiment with a range of techniques when it comes to the bubble we currently refer to as “responsive web design”, although the more I work with it, the more I realise it’s perfectly fine to refer to it as “building websites properly”.
Swamped by technology
From time to time, I do feel swamped by the sheer number of people who are out there experimenting with new ways to do things. Folks like Scott Jehl, Luke Wroblewski and Matt Wilcox who are right on the cutting edge and literally re-writing the technology and the book as they go.
These people few and far between but because of how we share information on Twitter and blogs etc, sometimes it’s very easy to feel you should also be implementing the latest, shiniest “cerulean” version of a browser polyfill or …. whatever.
There’s a new framework or grid system released every week, some are useful and some aren’t. You don’t have to use them. Guess what, it’s still entirely possible to make a website with a text editor and your brain. These tools are here to potentially make your life easier but if you try and keep up with everything you’re going to feel swamped and lost.
Don’t think of it as “mobile first” or “responsive” just think of it as “doing a good job planning, designing & developing stuff”
— James Young (@welcomebrand) April 25, 2012
Some of these things are experimental, some are stable enough for a range of projects and some are not even that useful when you sit back and think about them for a minute. It’s easy to think everyone has been building mobile first, responsive websites since 2010.
Not that many people have built a responsive site
The reality is that actually, not that many people have done more than one or two and not many big websites have launched since we started thinking differently about how to design and build sites. For the most parts, we’re still an industry where there’s actually a very small percentage of folks who have developed (or started making) amazing solutions to the wide range of problems but for the most part the “average” designer is still very new to this stuff and we should be ok with that.
It’s ok to step back a minute and digest the complete flip the industry has taken in the last 18 months and pick the right tools for the job.
Addendum: I’m not suggesting the “cutting edge” is bad, far from it. It’s vital. Also, as someone else mentioned, they’ve not built a responsive site yet but pointed out they’re not sat around laying out sites in tables. Definitely don’t stand still – try to keep up whenever possible and read as much as you can but don’t beat yourself up for not deploying the latest mega-technique if you’re not able to. We’re just at the beginning of a very long path here.