Responsive Design & Darwins Theory of Evolution

I love surfing.

As much as I love surfing though I was born and bred in a town that produces surfable waves 10 days a year and they always coincide with the natural disaster that a cyclone brings.

If that wasn’t bad enough you can throw into the mix that our ocean is full of things that want to kill you. Not just content with sharks we also have crocodiles, box jellyfish and irukandji.

With all that in mind you are probably not surprised to hear that although I love surfing I don’t get the chance to do it much and I’m not very good.

That was true until late last year when I tried out standup paddle boarding for the first time. Very shortly after my first adventure where I spent more time in the water than on top of the board I bought my own board, paddle, and a stinger suit, which unfortunately resembles something that Jean-Luke Picard wears to work). Now for the first time in my life I can wake up in the morning and walk across the road for a surf (ignoring the remote possibility that I’ll fall onto or bump into a crocodile *knocks on wood*)

It was during one of my recent paddles that I stood on the board and looked around. The tide was rushing in and as it did the sandbar started to get covered and some small waves were forming where before there was no water. The sun was high in the sky as the wind started to pick up quite a bit. As the gusts became stronger the water began to get choppy making balancing on the board just a little bit more difficult. The wind also had an affect on the waves as they struggled to break against the strong breeze.

As I paddled the water would raise up over the side rails of the board and whirlpools would form at the beginning and end of each stroke of the paddle.

The water was responding to its surroundings.

I noticed this more on this day because I had read “Why responsive design is like water” through my RSS feeds the night before. It was so obvious that I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought about that earlier.

That’s when I notices something else.

The trees were swaying with the breeze. Some of them even appeared to have a bit of a lean to them after years of constant wind.

Where the trees had rooted themselves the sand danced across the dunes making patterns as they went. The clouds were whispily stretched across the sky instead of their usual white fluffy plumpness.
Birds were flying in circles off in the distance where I could see some smoke rising from the bush, and a jelly fish was pulsing just below the surface with it’s tentacles pointed towards the beach as they were being strung out by the incoming tide.

I wasn’t just the water. Everything I could see was responding to it’s surroundings.

It didn’t matter whether it was the semi permanent structure of the tree, the sand on the beach, the birds lifting with the heat (hot air rises remember), or the water moving around the paddle… everything had some kind of response to its surroundings.

It began to dawn on me that the article I read had not gone far enough. It wasn’t that Responsive Design was akin to just water. Responsive Design in fact mirrors the entire world we live in. Responsive Design is natural. It is Nature.

My mind went even further down this thought path. Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Volcanic Eruptions, Earths orbit, the Sun, Evolution… even the Universe after the BIG BANG!!!

All these things are responsive based on their surroundings and their content, whether it’s their position to another object (Earth to the Sun) or the content within the object itself (reactions within the sun).

As my focus came back to the paddle board… and realising I had floated a little way in that time… it occurred to me that the web was moving towards a Darwin Theory of Evolution. Those that adapt/respond to the changing environment will have an advantage over those that do not. They will have an evolutionary advantage and continue to survive while those that do not will die.

That’s not to say that there will be a metaphorical meteor that will cause massive extinction of the fixed layout, but as responsive sites begin to offer similar services to their fixed design cousins users will begin to starve the later for visits which will eventually cause them to die off.

Survival of the fittest. Adapt/Respond or die.

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