Safety Net

03-05-12 Ben Callahan

Ben Callahan presents Sparkbox's stand on responsive web design.

If you’ve read much about what we do here at Sparkbox, you hopefully understand that we are trying to embrace the fluidity of the web. We’ve tossed an idea around recently – the idea that responsive web design is always the right decision but not always the only decision. Honestly, I’ve been hesitant to say this publicly because the word "always" tends to be pretty ripe for controversy.

Responsive web design is always the right decision but not always the only decision.

I can now say that we believe a slightly modified (and less potent) variation of this. You know, something like "almost always the right decision."

Eh, I know. Boring.

So, this quick post is NOT about how we’ve reached #rwd zen and believe it’s the only way forward on the web. It’s true – we don’t build fixed-width sites anymore; however, this doesn’t mean we do NO fixed-width work. Specifically, the work we do that’s behind authentication still tends to be fixed-width. We are working, like others, to push for responsive patterns of more complex, interaction-based sites, but we’re not there yet.

We see responsive web design as a fantastic safety net, catching devices that slip through user agent cracks. And while I’ve never worked in the circus, I’d be willing to bet that they set up safety nets before they start practicing their trapeze routines.

My point: we believe responsive web design should be seriously considered for public-facing, content-driven sites. This gives you a solid foundation to build on even if you feel there is a strong case for a unique context on specific devices. Like I said before, RWD is not always the only decision.

Why go to the trouble of writing this if we can’t commit to the controversial “always” statement? We really just want to be honest about where we stand. We love responsive web design, but there are still some real challenges with the techniques. I’m proud to work with a group of people that are passionate enough about what we do to help push for solutions instead of dwelling on the problems, and I’m equally lucky to have clients who really want to push what these techniques can do and are willing to work with us to get there.