Responsive deliverables should look a lot like fully-functioning Twitter Bootstrap-style systems custom tailored for your clients’ needs. These living code samples are self-documenting style guides that extend to accommodate a client’s needs as well as the needs of the ever-evolving multi-device web.
Dave Rupert

The page was–and continues to be–a very visible and helpful metaphor for the end users of the Web. It also has a profound influence on how Web experiences are created.

In the early days of the Web, companies looking to get online simply translated their printed materials onto their websites. But even though these brochure websites offered a very one-dimensional perspective of what the Web could offer, viewing websites as digital representations of the printed page was easy for creators to wrap their heads around.

But we’re now 25 years into this new medium, and this once-necessary figure of speech has overstayed its welcome. Unfortunately, the page metaphor continues to run deep with respects to how we scope and execute our Web projects. Here are just a few examples I hear on a regular basis:

“We’re a startup looking to launch a 5-page website this October…”

“Brad, how long will the home page take to build?”

“How are we ever going to redesign this university website that contains over 30,000 pages?!”

All of the above statements make the fundamental mistake of assuming a page is a uniform, isolated, quantifiable thing. The reality is that the Web is a fluid, bi-directional, interdependent medium. As soon as we come to terms with this fact, the notion of the page quickly erodes as a useful means to scope and create Web experiences.

How long will a homepage take to build? Well, that sort of depends on what’s on it, right? Maybe the homepage simply consists of a tagline and a background image, which means it could be done by lunch. Or maybe it’s chock full of carousels, dynamic forms, and third-party integrations. In that case, maybe the homepage will take several months to complete.

As for the 30,000-page university website, it might be tempting to declare, “Thousands of pages!? Wow, that sounds challenging!” But in reality, those 30,000 pages may consist of three content types and two over-arching layouts.

Ultimately, a project’s level of effort is much better determined by the functionality and components contained within those pages, rather than on the quantity of pages themselves.

The page metaphor served its purpose helping users familiarize themselves with the Web, and provided creators with a necessary transitional language for which to create for a brand new medium. But in order to create thoughtful interfaces meant to be served to a multitude of connected devices, the time has come for us to evolve beyond the page.

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