What I mean is that tables are not "responsive" and laying things out with tables, while "easy" was not enough for anything more than people browsing the web on CRTs, and certainly not for thousands of different displays with varying dimensions and resolutions.
Things are good these days. You can still use tables if that's as far as you want to go, or you can do things professionally.
While that's true, I think the OP's point was we knew that emulating the old rigid model was the right thing to do and that the hindsight-is-20/20 lessons we would have had are ones that we instead will need another decade or so to obtain. We lost a lot of time.
The reason for this is understandable and depressing. Frankly most designers were far less flexible than the programmers, and preferred to rest on their own experiences rather than take advantage of the medium.
Frankly the thing that crystalized this for me was the "Cluetrain manifesto". What it said was blindingly obvious to so many of us. What shocked (and enlightened) me is that someone realized that it had to be written down. In other words most people, or at least most people in marketing and business, actually didn't understand the web and preferred to try to treat it as some sort of TV remote control with a buy button.
Of course path dependency is probably the defining factor in technical and social progress. But it doesn't mean there wasn't a missed opportunity. In fact "responsive design" is simply a minor surface metonymic element of a major missed opportunity.
The fact that things rearrange dynamically as you resize your window on a desktop box is not the main target, the target is a design working equally well on your desktop, your table in both landscape and portrait, your much smaller phone, and so forth, so the designer doesn't need to maintain multiple versions of the site/page/app.
This is the original article which named the technique: http://alistapart.com/article/responsive-web-design/
Although the technique was being used earlier than May 25, 2010.
Adaptive Web Design (responsive but on server side, not client) is the other technique popular with websites aiming to support 96% of browsers well. Because it's impossible to do that nicely for mobile browsers.
Mobile first, offline first are the other two related terms you've likely heard. Meaning design for mobile first, or offline first.
Not just change, but remove flourishes and not entirely necessary elements.
> I've been seeing it used an awful lot in web design as of the past few years, often rather vaguely as some sort of feature.
It's a feature for cross-device compatibility, the point being to alter visible content to fit multiple device sizes.
For example on https://www.simple.com/, the logo in the header is simpler that the logo on the credit card.
They also show the 3 versions they use in a blogpost: https://www.simple.com/blog/simple-branding
It would be much more impressive to see the same parts of logos reused on different variants of logos - "The Man With A Gun’s Method" that is covered in the same article by Ilya Pukhalski.
"The Hobo’s Method" - http://responsivelogos.co.uk/images/logo5.svg and "The Man With A Gun’s Method" - http://pukhalski.com/responsive-icons/responsive2.svg
It is strange that author publishes (source: http://www.joeharrison.co.uk/projects/responsiveicons ) the information from Smashing Magazine containing the methods of responsive SVG and still uses the poorest method.
I think you've got it backwards. Joe Harrison first published responsiveicons.co.uk and the Smashing Magazine article is a later improvement on it. He didn't use the newer method because it wasn't around when he created the page.
In my view, "The Hobo's Method" is superior in that in keeps in-tact the core identity for each brand. Also, it helps to see real world examples.
There's a little bit about the history of the logo here: http://www.coca-cola.co.uk/125/history-of-coca-cola-logo.htm...
Slightly surprised that the "Coke" text from the largest logo wasn't used as the smallest.
I'm shocked! Shocked!
(I guess there is a reason in the first place to display the information. Simply leaving it out feels very wrong. Or it was already unnecessary.)