Are we in a new era of web design? What do we call it?

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Chris Coyier on (Updated on )

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Una is calling it the new responsive. A nod to the era we were most certainly in, the era of responsive design. Where responsive design was fluid grids, flexible media, and media queries, the new responsive is those things too, but slotted into a wider scope: user preference queries, viewport and form factor, macro layouts, and container styles.

I like the thinking and grouping here and I kinda like the name. It alludes to an evolution and extension of responsive web design rather than a rejection and replacement.

This isn’t the first crack at identifying and naming a shift between eras. Back in 2018, Jen Simmons was doing a talked called “Everything You Know About Web Design Just Changed” where she identified that responsive design was a major shift in how we did layout on the web. And yet, it was firmly defined in an era where layout tools like flexbox and grid didn’t even exist. Now, they do exist, and with them a bevy of other new features that bring more capable graphic design to the web. She called it Intrinsic Design.

I almost like Intrinsic Design more now than I did in 2018, because now, if we attempt to lump in @container queries, the name makes more intuitive sense. We (hopefully will soon) make styling choices based on the intrinsic size of elements. We make styling choices based on the intrinsic nature of the individual users we serve. We make styling choices off the intrinsic qualities of the browser.

I wouldn’t say either of the terms have really caught on though. It’s hard to make a name stick. That little burst of ideating around CSS4 sure didn’t go anywhere.

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