No, I don’t think responsive design really is a fad. But as Brad Frost put it in a post yesterday, the enthusiasm for responsive design as a kind of an end-all be-all solution is missing the real point.
Graeme Wood wrote in 2008 that we are moving from millions of computers connected by the Internet to one huge computer that is the Internet, and I’ve been quoting him ever since. There are so many devices, big and small, now that are all a window to the World Wide Web, and the number and types of those devices are only increasing. It’s a must to create adaptive sites that offer functional, contextually-aware, optimal user experiences for all the different web-enabled devices out there. Now it’s desktop, mobile, and tablet – next year it’ll be also car, smart watch, and fridge that we design for.
Responsive web design – i.e. making sure that a web site can adapt the layout to the viewing environment by using fluid grids and flexible images – is one good thing. But it’s not the only way you can or should create a contextually-aware experience, and the users of the site certainly won’t care if the site is responsive, or a separate mobile site. What they care about is that the site works and they can accomplish what they came to do on the site.