Can The Responsive Web Be More Like Print.

I’ve been hearing a lot of recent chatter on the point of RWD being to blame for a boring web that lacks the spark of print creativity. I can understand the frustration. I think bootstrap and the flat trend are mostly to blame as well as the art of copying what we like. But let us take a minute to review the current and past states of the web to find out if there really is a connection between print and web.


The web was never ever anything even close to print. Here’s why.

In print:

  • You use ink and paper to create a fixed size media. It never changes size or shape so you know you only have to layout your art\text once forever.
  • You know people are only going to use their hands and eyes to view it. And unless the person view the printed work is color blind it’s going to look exactly the same to everyone.

Now let’s contracts that to the web:

  • You have to design for infinite sizes and proportions.
  • You can only use a certain portion of the available layout technologies available to you do to consistent browser and operating system support.

In the minds of seasoned graphic designs especially those with a print background, the web was a better place 10 years ago. Back in the good old days just like print you could pretty much design for a fixed size (like print) and pass it off to a developer to “make it like the .PSD.”

This rose colored glass interpretation ignores why RWD has become the inevitable method to design for the web. And that reason is that the web was a very ugly place for mobile devices.

First the devices (Tablets were not readily available yet) were not able to handle the native web.

They were more like scrolling pagers with the occasional misplaced image. I remember how much fun it was to scroll sideways just to read a long strip of text.

Second we never stopped to think the the web was a flexible canvas all along and we were breaking the true nature of the web.

Why did we break it? Because we could. Most of the monitors were 15-17″ so as long as we designed in a small enough canvas we were golden. When the web was born print designers saw the web as a simple extension of a piece of paper. We now know this was an illusion, a tempting lie that we told ourselves until we believed it to be true.

So RWD solves a problem. Will another method replace it? Maybe, so it’s best to stay flexible.


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