Responsive Web Design and Drupal

By: Mason Wendell
Feb 11, 2013

We love Responsive Web Design, and we love Drupal. But do they love each other? After working on a number of RWD and Drupal projects this year, I'm happy to report that they get along just fine. Though "Love" might be stretching it a bit.

Can Drupal and RWD be Pals?

Drupal is a great platform for managing content and for building everything from simple blogs to very complex applications. By connecting Drupal's building blocks, you can build just about any functionality you need. That's amazing, especially if you've ever struggled to build any aspect of that on your own. My Drupal a-ha moment came when I realized that I'd never need to write a user log-in on my own again. Smarter people than me were on the case.

But that speaks to two key aspects of Drupal that aren't directly related to RWD. Drupal is primarily a back-end tool that excels when the building blocks are abstracted to be applicable to as many use cases as possible. Defining views and content types rightly doesn't prescribe any layout or visual design, leaving those tasks to your creativity in the theming layer.

The best Drupal themes are also the ones that are the most general, allowing you to add all the custom details yourself. Good design is in the details, and the details are always custom. A good starter theme gives you the tools you need to have total control over those details and then gets out of your way. Themes that provide a full visual design must have their place, but I've never had a client that wanted to look like everyone else who installed the same theme. When a starter theme gets out of your way, you get something pretty fantastic: a back end system that provides the data and markup you need and a blank canvas where you can write whatever CSS and JavaScript you want to make something unique and delightful.

Responsive Web Design, just like any other flavor of design, is all about custom solutions. The difference is that we have the opportunity to change and refine the design around different browser characteristics, like the browser width. It's natural that a designer would want a system to help with all this added complexity, but in most aspects, Drupal doesn't provide such a system. But then again, it doesn't provide a system for logo design either. It's just not the right tool for that particular task.

Personally, I prefer Drupal as a blank canvas. With tools like Sass and the whole wide world of css techniques, I think we have some pretty great options already.

Related posts

Mar 10, 2014
Hi, my name is Jason Moore and I am a Developer here at Zivtech. I recently started working for Zivtech full time, helping their talented team continue to build and maintain awesome Drupal websites and applications for their clients. For the three years prior to joining Zivtech, I built a name for myself in the local Philadelphia Drupal community as a go-to “freelancer”, specializing in small to medium-sized projects that shops like Zivtech and Rock River Star couldn’t take on, for one reason or another.
Posted by: Jason Moore
Nov 5, 2013

We at Zivtech have been working with Drupal for a long time, some of us for over 10 years, and in that time we’ve gotten to use (and sometimes build) a lot of really cool modules to develop stellar sites for our clients. We have sifted through thousands of modules on, going far beyond the first couple pages of results and venturing deep into the unknown, unheard of, and ultimately under-appreciated modules. We sent out a question to our staff to ask for their favorite obscure modules, and we've compiled this list to share some of these modules that we have found particularly helpful, and to help ensure that they don't fall through the cracks. All of these modules have fewer than 8,000 active installs, and most have under 5,000.

Posted by: David Hamme
Sep 26, 2013

As a Senior Developer here at Zivtech, part of my job is to develop with an eye towards security. If you follow development and security news, you know that achieving security is pretty hard in complex systems. But, while correctly implementing security across a site is challenging, some aspects of security are actually pretty easy and we've known what to do and what not to do for a long time.

Posted by: Laurence Liss
Sep 11, 2013

Introducing Bear Skin, a comprehensive skin for Zivtech's Bear base theme.

Posted by: Alban Bailly
Apr 16, 2013

The quality assurance (QA) phase of a web development project is the last phase before launch. While the development team has a lot of experience with QA phases, oftentimes the client team is new to the process, which can lead to stress. Let's prevent this with a little Q&A on QA.

Posted by: Jody Hamilton
Apr 15, 2013

Nominees for the 17th annual Webby Awards have been announced! And Zivtech-built sites are in the running for four awards!

Posted by: David Marvin
Feb 14, 2013

This weekend 9 members of the Zivtech staff will be participating and competing in Startup Weekend Health Philadelphia 2013, which, according to their site, ”centers on building a web or mobile application that could be the basis for a credible business. After 500+ Startup Weekends world-wide, this will be the first dedicated solely to healthcare’s unique problems.”

Feb 1, 2013

Zivtech is happy to be a Gold Sponsor at this year's DrupalCamp NJ. And as always, our developers and designers are conducting training workshops and sessions.

Posted by: Tony Capponi
Nov 19, 2012

LEMON: Drupal diseases and cures

I've worked on many "Site Rescue" jobs, in which a client comes with a sick, but often brand-new and expensive Drupal site, desperately needing it fixed in a number of ways. Through this work I've seen a lot of patterns of "worst practices" employed. I enjoy the challenge of this cleanup work, while feeling bad for the clients who have been taken by incompetent vendors. I refer to these sites as "lemons" and I've made a study of their characteristics. 

Posted by: Jody Hamilton
Oct 10, 2012

Much has been written on how to use the Drupal Views module effectively, but less on how to use it like a perfectionist professional. I started the following checklist for my team to level up everyone's pre- ticket review quality, but it can be useful for any Views builders.

Getting Started

On every site, run drush vd to turn the Views settings to the advanced mode.

Posted by: Jody Hamilton