Currying Favour with Responsive Web Developers

I’m sorry. Please forgive my appalling pun in the title, but calling the post “responsive curry” wouldn’t really have explained what we did the other night.

A while back, a number of designers, developers and thinkers all got together at Microsoft’s offices for a round-table pow-wow to discuss where the future of Responsive Web Design was headed. The Responsive Summit got its attendees talking about the tools they used, how to approach certain design problems and even turned out a polyfill for a non-existent element!

A small minority on twitter decided that the event was elitist, closed and a bit of a circle-jerk of the internet glitterati. Jealousy is a terrible thing. But it showed, once again, that the vast majority of people miss the point of events like this.

Instead of bitching about how you never get invited to things like this (see also If a group exists, join it; if it doesn’t, start one) how about organising one yourself.

Once again, that’s exactly what I did. With curry and beer.

Responsive Curry

Now, admittedly, the event didn’t start out as a responsive summit-esque event. Last week, my wife and son were away at my father-in-law’s place in Wales, so with no plans, I decided to ask some friends if they fancied going out for a curry. These friends just so happened to be web developers who just so happened to be interested in Responsive Web Design and I was organising the curry right around the time of the twitter backlash.

Thus, the #ResponsiveCurry hashtag was born as a bit of a tongue-in-cheek dig at the vocal minority, a Lanyrd event page was thrown together and a domain name was purchased and we threw open the doors to anyone that could make it to Leamington.

Discussing Responsive Issues over a Curry and some Beer

We spoke about a number of topics – navigation, designing breakpoints, starting with mobile or desktop first, whether RWD was the answer to all the web’s problems (it isn’t), responsive images and device and connection capabilities – and discussed how each of us was tackling, or planning to tackle, the issues at hand.

For navigation, we discussed the different ways of creating navigation methods that worked across multiple devices and breakpoints. In examples where navigation collapsed or became part of the footer, we spoke about how it needed to be obvious to newcomers to the platform, and spoke about looking at the kinds of buttons and icons that could be created, with the ‘three line’ menu icon being cited as a front-runner, being used in Twitter’s bootstrap, and rising to prominence much in the same way that the video ‘play’ icon has.

With breakpoints, the discussion turned to making sure that breakpoints were clearly designed in CSS, but also designed in JavaScript – or designing our JavaScript in such ways that it didn’t need to be aware of the presentation elements.

I posed the (loaded) question asking if Responsive Web Design was the answer to all of the web’s problems (hint: it isn’t) and we spoke again about making sure that the starting point for each design is considered in conjunction with a long, hard look at the audience and the environments in which each application or website is primarily used.

There was much discussion about the non-existent (for now) picture element – for which Scott Jehl has created a polyfill – and how, in a similar fashion to the <video> element, it could be an answer for future responsive image needs. Other methods, including setting cookies and Jeremy Keith’s reminder of the now-deprecated (but, perhaps soon un-deprecated) lowsrc attribute of the <img> element, were also discussed.

Then we spoke about how designing for the web was about considering all aspects of the audience – especially when it comes to their device capabilities and the bandwidth of their connection to the internet.

Finally, we agreed that, instead of building massive designs and then re-designing for each, that a pattern- or component-based approach was the best to take, ensuring that each piece of the puzzle comes together in a responsive fashion.

Don’t bitch about it, organise one yourself

So that’s it. We got together. We had a curry. We drank some beer. We spoke about responsive web design.

This may blow your mind: It’s something you can do too.

Whenever I see mention of an event like the Responsive Summit on Twitter, Lanyrd or other places, I take a few minutes to think about the event – what its goals are, the type of people going, what the topics will be – and, if there’s no chance that I’ll be invited along or can attend, I think about how I could put a similar event on.

As developers, designers and content creators, we’re all lucky to live in the current age where it’s easy to reach out to our friends, colleagues and peers via the intenet and organise little get-togethers like The Multipack, HydraHack, iOS Midlands and WordPress Birmingham.

A quick, but heartfelt note of thanks goes to Campaign Monitor for their support of the event – giving us some money to go towards the night for everyone who attended. I dropped them a line on their Giving Back page and explained my idea for the event and they were happy to give us something towards the evening. Our next event will be featuring some discussions for the real-world topic of email newsletter design for which Campaign Monitor have a great template base ready to build upon.

If you want to organise a Responsive Curry (drop me a tweet and I’ll make sure that, when the website’s up, we’ll list your event) or a Repsonsive Bowling Night or a Repsonsive Roundtable, or a Responsive Club Night then go ahead and make it happen – just don’t bitch about it and do nothing.

Anyone can do that.

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