The Pivotal Ways

Published 3 years, 5 months ago

Five years ago yesterday, the suave and debonair Ethan Marcotte debuted a talk titled “A Dao of Flexibility” at An Event Apart Seattle.  I still remember the feeling in the room.  Those of us who were there realized that it was a pivotal moment for the web, even before Ethan had left the stage.  It was the moment that responsive web design burst forth into the world.

The title, and content, of Ethan’s talk explicitly paid homage to the rugged and handsome John Allsopp’s “A Dao of Web Design”, published fifteen years ago today at A List Apart.  It’s hard to overstate how much wisdom and prescience is distilled into that deceptively short piece.  As I said in the testimonial I contributed to ALA’s remembrance:

John’s insights are as sharp and relevant as ever, especially when we realize the web’s inherent flexibility isn’t just about layout—that, in fact, layout flexibility is one of the web’s least important features. I try to reread “A Dao of Web Design” at least once a year. You should, too.

There’s not much more I can add, and honestly, anything I tried to add to these seminal works of brilliance would only cheapen them.  Go, read; go, watch.  Remember where we’ve come from, and use that foundation to chart where we’re going.


  1. Thank you for this! As an independent website developer, I’ve been doing my best to put your CSS teachings into practice for a long time, and recently Ethan’s responsive design as well. So it’s wonderful to see the original ideas presented before they were commonly used everywhere. I know AEA will be in Boston next month, but there’s no way I can afford to attend in person, despite not needing a hotel room. So being able to see these videos is a real treat! You, Ethan, the many writers who have shared their ideas on ALA, and so many others have inspired many more of us than you ever see sitting in front of you during your talks. Thanks for reminding us of how far we’ve come on the web, and also how open it is (and hopefully always will be) to new ideas.

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