Originally called 'fluid' layouts, responsive web design (or RWD) has recently been the cause of much speculation on the future of web design. RWD relies not so much on the actual graphic interpretation of the design but more on the positioning of content and how it can maneuver and represent itself when the website is being viewed on a smartphone or a tablet. In effect, it seems that RWD immediately solves the immense challenge of how to develop one website that adapts itself immediately for optimum viewing on all web viewing platforms and devices.
While it would be easy to drop everything and jump on the bandwagon of this new direction, the one challenge about adapting the 'newest thing' in technology is that the short history of web and information technology is littered with the bones of others who were convinced that the latest and greatest tech craze is worth investing any and all resources into – no questions asked.
One very famous, or should I say infamous example, is the fate of Adobe's 'Flash' app/program. Flash is a commercially licensed program that provides for graphic animation and can render some very amazing special effects in websites. In the early 2000's It was touted as 'THE FUTURE' of web design. Everyone, it was noted, would not just need this technology to stay up with everyone, but would almost be required in order to have a website that would not get thrown to the back of the bus due its visual mediocrity. Everything seemed to be running along with this prediction until a certain tech giant by the name of Steve Jobs said "NO". Not only this, but it became disappointingly evident that the speed of rendering a website when called for suddenly made the painfully slow rendering of a Flash based site unacceptable on smaller devices. Since this "no" statement, web owners have been ditching their flash based websites faster than a politician's promise on election day.
So what am I saying? Indeed, we (web developers) need to pursue and understand RWD. But doing it in a responsible manner while continuing to question its merits and fully understanding how the user truly perceives its effectiveness. The web and the tools needed in which to render content and information to the vast sea of users continually changes at warp speed. Time will tell just how these tools will be utilized.