Chapter 2: The Unreliable Screen

THE SCREEN HAS LONG SEEMED a trusty canvas as the base for our visual interfaces. For most of web design’s short history, screens were reassuringly stable. They kept the same aspect ratio for decades, and though they gradually grew in size, they did so at a steady pace. The web design industry settled on standard widths—beginning with 600 pixels in the 1990s, then 800 pixels around 2000, then 980, and finally 1200. And then, suddenly, this fixed-width illusion exploded with the mobile revolution and its bevy of screen shapes and sizes.

Responsive design is the new normal, and thanks to CSS media queries, we’ve adapted our designs to pocket-sized ...

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