Responsive Interview with Aaron Gustafson & Matt Stow

Aaron Gustafson & Matt Stow

Welcome to week five of the responsive design interview series, and a very Merry Christmas to you all from earlier in the week. Each week we ask our two guests the same four questions about Responsive Design and listen intently with what they have to say.

This week we’re checking out Aaron in the USA and heading over to Australia to hear from Matt.

Lets get started!


Aaron Gustafson

Aaron Gustafson is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Easy Designs, a web development consultancy. He is also Group Manager of the Web Standards Project (WaSP) where he has spearheaded both Web Standards Sherpa and a small business outreach effort. He is also a speaker, and author of Adaptive Web Design. You can find his writings over on the Easy Designs blog and get in touch with him@AaronGustafson.

What was the best implementation of RWD you saw in 2012 and why?

There have been a lot of great responsive designs this year, but the one I’m going to highlight isn’t so much a site as a proof of concept: Brad Frost’s mobile-first adaptive design demo.

While not a true site, I think it is a perfect example of the sort of sites we should be aspiring to build: lightweight, modular, focused,and beautiful. Plus, as it is a demo, you can turn on the annotation mode and actually dig into the various aspects of the page you might not otherwise have noticed.

What are 2 RWD Frameworks/Plugins/Shims/etc that you recommend/couldn’t live without?

I’m not really a framework guy. I have, however, found the precompiling power ofSASS and Compass combined with Susy for grid construction to be the Voltron of CSS authoring.

What is the one thing with RWD you would like to see improved/developed in 2013?

I want people to pay attention to performance. We have responsive sites out there that weigh in at >1Mb. That’s unacceptable.

If you could offer 1 piece of advice around rwd what would it be?

Think beyond the hallmarks of RWD and begin to explore how to craft awesome experiences for users, regardless of their device capabilities. RWD is a great technique, but you need to think more holistically about the user experience rather than simply focusing on how you’re going to rearrange things on the page. Content strategy, performance, levels of interactivity… these are all essential to crafting a great web experience.


Matt Stow

Matt Stow is the Senior UI Developer for Izilla, based in Newcastle, Australia, and specialises in designing and developing accessible, responsive websites. Matt first got in touch with us in September 2012 with his RWD Retrofit, and since then we’ve covered anything he has done in the RWD space – even implementing his Responsive Image Maps in a project of our own. You can find more of his writing on his website, and you can get in touch with him @stowball.

What was the best implementation of RWD you saw in 2012 and why?

Best implementation is pretty broad. There are lots of responsive design “best practices” and I don’t think that one site has completely nailed them all yet.Smashing Magazine’s relaunch was definitely up there in my opinion though, and, while it may not be the current pinnacle, it’s definitely had the biggest impact on me since I can – and do – read it regularly on my Galaxy Nexus, Sony Tablet S (on close zoom) and my Win 8 laptop at 4x zoom. Their em-based media queries make comfortable zoomed reading possible; everyone should use them.

What are 2 RWD Frameworks/Plugins/Shims/etc that you recommend/couldn’t live without?

Modernizr, although not specifically for responsive design, is a must have in any project. Its conditional resource loader, yepnope.js, allows you to start a project with a mobile first, “cutting the mustard” philosophy, and load weightier JavaScripts/perform other functions as the need arises.

For number two, Nicky Williams’ enquire.js is my go-to solution for responding to media queries with JavaScript. It’s lightweight – not relying on any other libraries like jQuery – is easy to set up & use, and works wonderfully. I can’t praise Nicky highly enough.

What is the one thing with RWD you would like to see improved/developed in 2013?

Although I love Modernizr, I want to do feature detection natively in the browser with CSS @supports. It should hopefully be able to go further than Modernizr and test for things that we can only dream of now, such as connection speed. Opera and Firefox nightlies have already began to implement this, so hopefully the other browsers soon follow suit. Christian Heilmann, of Mozilla, and Chris Mills of Opera both recently wrote about this.

If you could offer 1 piece of advice around rwd what would it be?

If you want to succeed in responsive design, you have to be prepared to constantly learn and adapt. Follow the hot shots on Twitter (in no particular order): Luke WroblewskiBrad FrostScott JehlChris CoyierAndy ClarkeEthan MarcotteJason GrigsbyViljami SalminenStephen Hay, *cough* me *cough*… and all the rest that I’ve forgotten. Follow the people they follow, follow related people. Read everything they post. The art of RWD is a constantly moving target. If you’re not prepared to put in the hours, then be prepared to fall behind.

Oh, and don’t forget: mobile first, mobile first, mobile first, mobile first, mobile first, mobile first.


Wrapping up…

That’s it for this week, a big thanks to Aaron and Matt. Next week we have Ben Callahan and Matt Griffin sharing their thoughts on responsive design.

Thanks for subscribing, and have a Happy News Years!!!

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