The 80-20 rule in responsive web design

Is the Pareto principle, better known as the 80-20 rule, also present in responsive web design?

Of course it is. The Pareto principle is present in most things that we do here on earth. Does 80% of the effort come from 20% of the features? Creating the grids, the breakpoints and the flexible images are probably not causing anybody a major headache. It can be challenging, but we are starting to get many tools to help us out so it’s probably not where you spend most of your time in a project. It’s the “other stuff”: an advertisement, a forum, a legacy authentication system, a CMS that outputs static HTML, a third party Flash component or even worse, a Java applet that you need to rewrite. Or maybe your content is not structured correctly, it’s full of markup with style information in pixels and full of large tables. You may have parts of the site that is just a PDF or maybe giant PNG infographics. These are the things we struggle with. These are the 20% of the features that takes up 80% of the effort.

This forces us to create workarounds, hacks and solutions that we are not proud of, but we need to deliver and we are forced into compromise again and again. We do our best to be responsible web professionals, but we have to deliver stuff out the door, even if it hurts. It is in these times it helps to remember the closing words of mr Zeldmans OFF MY LAWN post some time ago. A bit out of context here, but I still think it applies:

“It is publishing. It is humanity. It is the vanguard of ideas clashing against the rearguard of commerce. This is not new. This is all to be expected. We must stop raising our eyebrows and chuckling at it. We must decide to accept the world as it is, or to roll up our sleeves and help.”

It is expected. It is not new. The Pareto principle will always be around. And you will always be 80% ashamed of 20% of the work you do.

Published by

Anders M. Andersen

Digital Project Manager and Front End Developer.

  • It’s amazing how this 80/20 rule can be applied to anything. In RWD however, it may be a good way to measure how the content we are publishing is relevant to the users’ expectations and real use.
    It helps us focussing on the content architecture of a site and its value, rather than on its coolness. The Flash, Java applets or PDF tidbits may not be that useful in the end, and they are surely more expensive to maintain over time than their fast implementation made us believe at the beginning.