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The Point of Responsive Web Design

A few weeks ago, I was engaged in discussion around a simple question: “Is it necessary that I make a site responsive for IE7 and IE8?”

Someone pushed back on a statement I had made by asking, “Is [universal access to content] the point of responsive design, or is responsive design about supporting a plethora of screen sizes and resolutions with the aim of giving a good user experience?”

My answer: Yes, it’s about universal access to content.

RWD is about more than media queries

I see media queries as just a small piece of Responsive Web Design, and there’s a small but growing segment of the web that seems to shifting their definition of RWD in this direction as well.

To me, RWD is about content first and embellishment second. It’s progressive-enhancement. It’s fluid everything. It’s making sure that first and foremost, everyone, regardless of their device or browser, can access the content, and then adding in additional features.

I think this is actually pretty easy to do if you reframe your definition of “support” when it comes to older browsers and devices.

I believe you can support IE6 in the sense that they can still have access to all of the content, without the promise that they’ll get the same quality of experience that newer browsers will.

In other words, a site can look ugly in IE6 and still function. I consider that “supported.” Thoughts?

(I admit, I may be taking great liberties with the word.)