A Beginner’s Guide to Responsive Web Design

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Responsive Web Design

The utilization of mobile devices for surfing the web keeps on increasing at a cosmic speed, and these devices require dealing with how the elements are displayed on the screen.

A responsive web design reacts to the necessities of the users and the device they’re using for surfing the web. The layout of a web page changes based on the size of the display screen. For instance, mobile users would see the content appear in a single column, whereas tablet users might see the same section in two columns.

Various screen sizes exist across mobile phones, tablets, PCs, game consoles, TVs, and even wearables. The screen sizes of devices that are visiting your website are different and thus, your website should be capable of adjusting to any screen size. In this blog, we will talk about creating responsive designs for websites so that they can easily run devices with different screen sizes.

What is Responsive Design?

Responsive website design is a methodology that guarantees that every webpage on a website looks and works perfectly on various screen sizes. Regardless of various factors such as screen line, width, and length, etc. the website would still manage to display the content properly to ensure an amazing user experience.

In specialized terms, responsive website architecture infers a bunch of instructions that assist web pages to change their format and appearance according to the screen size of the device on which they are being displayed.  The idea of a responsive site came up because of non-viable and inappropriate methods of taking care of screen sizes. Initially, pages were developed to run on a  specific device only.

The traditional methodology suggested making a range of designs for different sizes of a similar page. However, with the exponential growth of the mobile web and a lot of devices with non-standard screen resolution showed up, this methodology has immediately gotten irrelevant since it couldn’t deal with the regular dynamics.

Benefits of Responsive Design

1. Covers wider audience 

Since nearly half of the internet users have mobile phones, it is more likely for them to visit websites with these devices. Therefore, making web pages responsive to ensure a good user experience has become a need rather than just being an option.

Making your website responsive across a range of devices will help to increase the incoming traffic and also improve the rankings of your website on search engine result pages (SERPs).

2. Easy to maintain

With the help of responsive web designs, owners don’t have to manage a lot of sites of different sizes. Instead, they will have just one website that will be displayed properly on all screen sizes, resulting in lesser production and maintenance costs.

3. It makes your website more flexible

It is quick and easy to make changes in responsive websites and all of the changes will reflect across all the screen sizes. Also, users don’t have to resize, scroll, zoom in and out, etc. to make adjustments.

This approach makes all images, fonts, and other HTML elements on a website scale and fits appropriately.

Working on a Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design works with the help of Hyper-Text Markup Language (HTML) and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). By utilizing various sets of CSS attributes, it is possible to make a website displayed perfectly on devices with different screen sizes, orientations, resolutions, colour capabilities, and other characteristics.

To check if a website is responsive or not, users can simply make use of a web browser by following the below-mentioned steps:

  • One Google Chrome and search for a website.
  • Now, press Ctrl + Shift + I from your keyboard to open the DevTools.
  • Now press on the Ctrl + Shift + M to hop on directly on the device toolbar.
  • From there, you can select to view your website from mobile, tablet, or desktop sizes.

Fundamentals of a Responsive Web Design

1. CSS and HTML

These two are the basics of developing a responsive web design and are responsible for controlling the elements and layout of web pages. HTML majorly handles the structure, elements, and content of the web pages. For instance, HTML is used to add images to a web page by using the following code:

<img src="image.gif" alt="image" class=”full-width-img”>

Further, you can make use of “class” or “id” for implementing the CSS code. HTML also allows individuals to control the primary attributes such as height and width within HTML. But instead, the majority of the audience opts to use CSS and layouts for including the elements on a webpage alongside the HTML. CSS codes are included in the <style> section of HTML documents or they can also have a dedicated stylesheet file.

For example, the width of all the HTML images at the element level can be set with the help of the following CSS code:

img {
width: 100%;
}

Else, we can selectively target the full-width images only by applying the CSS styles to elements labeled under a specific class “full-width-img”:

.full-width-img {
width: 100%;
}

Users can also adjust much more than just the height, width, and color of an element. By using CSS, it is possible to make image elements more responsive if they are applied with a technique known as media query.

2. Media queries

You can’t achieve a responsive web design without managing all the media queries. There are a few special CSS settings that tell web browsers to load a specific section of your website first when it is opened on a certain screen.

There are three different media queries in total that are majorly used for making media elements responsive. These three settings are for phones, desktops, and tablets respectively. These queries check whether or not the screen’s viewport is wide enough to execute the appropriate code.

@media screen and (min-width: 780px) {
.full-width-img {
margin: auto;
width: 90%;
}

If the screen is a minimum of 780 pixels wide, images with the “full-width-img” class will cover 90% of the screen and will be placed in the center automatically along with considering various margins as well.

3. Fluid layout 

A fluid layout is a crucial element for building responsive web designs that save individuals from adding static configurations to every HTML element, such as 600 pixels. A fluid layout works according to the percentage of the viewport width because it slightly shifts in different mobile devices. Therefore, having this approach dynamically increases or decreases the element size based on the screen size.

4. Flexbox layout

Since fluids work on the percentage-based layout, few web designers don’t conclude it to be ideal because of flexibility issues. Therefore, they utilize flexbox, which is a CSS module that is more efficient in defining the layout in multiple elements. The best part is that it works perfectly even if the size of the elements is unknown.

Elements contained inside the flex container expand for filling in all the available free space and also shrinks for preventing any kind of overflow. These flex containers come with few robust functions as well such as justifying the content.

5. Responsive images

Responsive images follow the same concept as fluid layout and use dynamic units to control, create, and add width or height. Consider the following code:

img {
width: 100%;
}

Here, The % unit defines a single percentage of the dimensions of the viewport and ensures the image fits the screen. The main problem with this approach is that every user has to download the full-sized image, even on mobile.

Therefore, for serving the different versions scaled for different devices, an individual has to use the HTML srcset attribute in the image tag that specifies more image sizes to choose from.

<img srcset="large-img.jpg 1024w,
middle-img.jpg 640w,
small-img.jpg  320w"
src="small.jpg"
/>

If you are building the website on WordPress, then you don’t have to worry about this issue because WordPress automatically applies this functionality for all the images including the ones that are added in blog posts.

6. Speed

The loading speed of a website is one of the most important factors.to consider as a fast loading speed tends to enhance the user experience. Always ensure that while making a website responsive, it shouldn’t affect the loading speed of the website negatively. If your website gets slow, consider optimizing it for speed by using compressed images, deploying cache, minification, using short layouts, etc.

Steps to Make a Responsive Website

Building a responsive website is a cakewalk, and you can do the same by simply following the four steps mentioned below:

1. Structure the layout

Designing and structuring the layout along with deciding the proper navigation is the first and the most crucial step for making a website. In this stage, the navigation should also be defined properly and developers don’t have to focus on the website’s responsiveness. The major focus should be the website’s layout. For catalyzing the process, site owners can consider using website templates that are customizable or can opt for a prototyping tool for quickly finishing the wireframe of the website.

2. Use HTML and CSS for responsiveness

After creating the structure, developers have to use HTML and CSS to make customizations and add elements to the website. In this stage, users have to focus on responsive layout and write code accordingly. Adding several classes, sizes, and codes through the back-end will help create responsive web designs. 

1. Set media query range

The very first step, to begin with, is setting up the query ranges that depend on the website’s design. For example, the following media queries will be used for Bootstrap standards:

  • 576px for mobile devices
  • 768px for tablets
  • 992px for desktops
  • 1200px for televisions

2. Create a CSS grid layout

Now, as a developer, you need to define different sizes for various layout elements depending on media queries and screen breakpoints. The total number of containers depends upon the design of a website. However, a majority of the websites make the layout for header, content, sidebar, and footer. For an efficient responsive web design, an individual can style the main elements as mentioned below:

#wrapper {width:95%;  margin: 0 auto; }
#header {width:100%; }
#content {width:100%; }
#sidebar {width:100%; }
#footer {width:100%; }
// Small devices (landscape phones, 576px and up)
@media (min-width: 576px) {
// Medium devices (tablets, 768px and up)
@media (min-width: 768px) {
#wrapper {width:90%;  margin: 0 auto; }
#content {width:70%; float:left; }
#sidebar {width:30%; float:right; }
// Large devices (desktops, 992px and up)
@media (min-width: 992px) { ... }
}
// Extra large devices (large desktops, 1200px and up)
@media (min-width: 1200px) {
#wrapper {width:90%;  margin: 0 auto; }
}

For creating a cutting-edge responsive web design, get well-versed with CSS flexbox layout and learn how to work with its attributes like box-sizing.

3. Making images responsive

One of the most common practices for making images responsive is to add dynamic value to them as discussed in the previous sections. Always make sure to add srcset with different sizes while adding images on your webpage.

If you’re using a robust and advanced CMS like WordPress, they will be automatically added to the images saving tons of time and effort. 

4. Responsive typography

Along with focusing on the responsiveness of elements such as layout blocks, elements, and media, developers should also focus on font sizes and typographies to match the screen size. A simple approach to achieve the same is by adding a static value for the font size and adapting it in each media query. Developers are allowed to target multiple text elements simultaneously by separating each of them using commas.

@media (min-width: 992px) {
body, p, a, h4 {
font-size: 14px;
}
}

3. Add content

Now, you have to add various types of content to your website such as images, infographics, videos along interactive taglines to help visitors understand your offerings. Here, you have to focus on typography and image sizes by ensuring them to be responsive as well.

4. Testing

Once you finish the design and development, launch the website and test its responsive behaviour by running it on devices with different screen sizes. This will help you discover various loopholes and pain points before making the site publicly available on the web.

You can also check whether your website is mobile-friendly or not with the help of Google’s mobile-friendly test. You just have to enter the URL of your website and click on the “Test URL” button for the results.

Conclusion

Responsive web designs allow websites to run on various devices with different screen sizes smoothly. A responsive website has a lot of benefits such as it can cover a wider audience, little to no need for redirections, and better search engine ranking.

Developers have to make use of HTML and CSS for making elements of a website responsive. Also, they need to implement media queries, fluid layouts, flexbox layouts, and optimize the website for speed.

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