Today I asked on Twitter:
Can someone point me to a RWD site that isn’t a flat design?— Noah Stokes (@motherfuton) January 21, 2013
I wasn’t trying to troll or anything like that. I was seriously curious about seeing RWD sites weren’t flat. A flat design, in my opinion, is a design with very little background element(s), no gradient/shadow/skeumorphisism (sp?), usually strong typographically and almost always clean and crisp. Exactly like this site you’re reading right now.
Where are the RWD sites that have some sense of unique design that goes further than a clean/clear grid, beautiful imagery and nice typography? This isn’t a knock on flat design, because achieving a successful flat design is no small feat; the more you remove the more difficult a design gets. Some of my favorite designers have pulled off flat, responsive designs quite skillfully. It’s simply that there aren’t very many RWD sites that have shadows and gradients, textures and depth, more complex elements, from a front-end perspective.
Of course, the trend is towards flat design, and perhaps that is in nature due to RWD being just as trendy. You can much more easily code a responsive site that is flat in design than one that isn’t. Add to that, the fact that RWD is a (relatively) new technique that a lot of us are learning, and so starting with simpler designs (again, not as a knock, but from a front-end perspective) makes perfect sense.
There were a few sites that were suggested in response to my tweet that met what criteria I would consider as ‘not flat’. Those were disney.com and nike.com. Both of these sites utilize depth and texture quite nicely. They are both responsive to boot. So there are some, but not a lot of sites that aren’t flat and still responsive. However, in digging into Disney and Nike, I noticed a few blimps in the media query highway that bring up another area of RWD that leaves me wanting—pixel perfection.
The purist in me wants a pixel perfect design in the browser and responsive gives me that at certain break points, but the in betweens are what kill me. It’s like looking at an awkward love child of two designs. I don’t want to call any site out in particular, but with several of the sites listed in this excellent TNW article, there are several areas that simply look bad at certain viewport dimensions. It’s not for a lack of talent on the front-end side, it’s simply because it’s extremely difficult to get pixel perfection in every viewport—and that pains me. I would much rather see sites done adaptively for their most popular viewport dimensions where pixel perfection could be achieved because let’s be honest, we’re the only ones resizing our browser windows like mad.
Bottom line: I’m a perfectionist and a design junkie. I want to see beautiful, immersive sites executed with perfection in every browser and responsive web design doesn’t play to either of those tendencies very well, thus leaving me wanting.