Responsive & Adaptive Web Design

Responsive & Adaptive Web Design

What does it all mean?

If you work in or with the web and make even a modicum of effort to remain buzzword compliant, you’re probably uber-familiar with the term “responsive web design.” Perhaps you’ve also heard of “adaptive web design” and “progressive enhancement”? If you’re like me, you may have found yourself wondering what exactly these words mean, what the differences are, and why everyone seems so giddy to use them in a sentence.

Humble Beginnings

Let’s start by acknowledging that the web, by its very nature, began as a rather “responsive” thing. In 1991, HTML itself provided a way to make documents accessible for the masses across a “word wide web.” By 1996 we had Cascading Style Sheets furthering this idea of the separation of content from its presentation, and then finally in 2001 Jeffrey Zeldman’s To Hell with Bad Browsers article on A List Apart began putting energy behind designing in this way, forcing browser makers to begin making browsers that more fully adopt these standards. By 1998 CSS2 came along and we even had “media types,” making the web even MORE “responsive” to varying contexts and uses. By this point you would think that the web would have reached its pinnacle, and all websites would have embodied some glorious syndication of clean and sensibly marked-up content, digestable in an infinite number of ways by a growing number of devices. But wait …

Designers Are Control Freaks

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