Charles Peters

Designer / Developer

Irresponsible Responsive Web Design

Recently I worked at a small agency where I was the “developer”. All of our projects were responsive but we did no mobile testing. The manager was satisfied with resizing the browser window, because “that’s all you really need”. We were using pre-made templates for Joomla! that use Twitter Bootstrap, a great framework, but not without its faults.

Relying solely on what the original theme developer had done and with no testing, we worked on over a dozen projects in this fashion. I was given poorly made graphics & images with 72dpi that weren’t loosely compressed nor optimized for retina with @2x, let alone even using an alt attributes. When it came to organizing the content on the websites, they told us to use tables, .pdfs & embedding videos that used auto-playing.

They focused largely on the 20+ inch displays and the pre-made transitions jQuery effects that the templates came with. These were heralded with importance and trumped the design, function and purpose of the sites we were making. Image carousels were used on each project, sometimes several on a page.

Performance was not ever called into question. I was encouraged to use plugin after plugin for solutions versus simplifying. Each of these plugins added extra script tags & stylesheets.

No one ever mentioned accessibility, low-bandwidth, progressive enhancement or an end user.

I was bizarrely discouraged from using a text editor to write CSS or edit the template files. On as needed basis I was told to use file manager in the cPanel to edit files. But that’s beside the point.

Clearly this is irresponsible responsive web design. And there’s no pretending it’s not sloppy; it’s just bad work.

Unfortunately, these are bad habits that slink into our existing workflows. It’s irresponsible not to consider the least common denominator of user, and use analytics to form an understanding of these users. It’s irresponsible to not think through the content we put on these websites. It’s even irresponsible not to test on actual devices.

The more we identify these bad practices the more we can extinguish them. We’re all here to good work for the people who us give money to work on their project. There isn’t a whole lot of use into knowingly doing bad work. Moreover as the web continues to spill and pour into more devices we should constantly be questioning our practices to better them. Anything else is irresponsible.