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Responsive Web Design – What It Is and How To Make It

What is a responsive interface?

A responsive interface is a type of interface which correctly adapts to all types of devices with various screen resolutions.

You can’t underestimate the importance of this factor. Today, users often prefer smartphones and tablets to desktop computers. And if your website’s design doesn’t adapt to different types of devices, you will inevitably lose a significant deal of traffic. According to the statistics, 80% of users leave a resource if they don’t like its design or if they have to perform too many actions to reach their goal.

This makes sense since the level of competition on the modern market is extreme. Users have no reason to stay on a website with a confusing layout if they can just find one that’s better. So, if you want your resource to succeed, you need to create an interface with an accent on user experience on all types of devices.

Responsive vs adaptive

We’ll talk about both of those terms in this article. They are also often confused with each other. It’s understandable since they are very closely related, however, it is important to know the difference.

Adaptive vs Responsive design

Adaptive web-design is the wider term of the two, and it includes responsive in it. In this context, the word “responsive” means that the site’s layout is flexible. It’s also called “rubber design”.

In general, adaptive web-design is a generic method aimed to present the best possibilities for the widest audience possible.

Basic components

The term “responsive design” is based on three main components. Let’s take a closer look at those components.

1. A flexible grid-based layout

A layout is the website’s structure which includes all of its design elements. In other words, it tells what size all the design blocks are supposed to be and their location on the page.

A layout is called flexible when its sizes are not determined by fixed data, but by percentages of a certain value. In our case, this value is the screen size.

Thanks to this approach the site’s layout has the same percentage ratio in relation to the screen size on all devices. For example, if a page has two vertical information blocks, with one being two times wider than the other, by using a responsive layout this proportion will remain. The page will be displayed the same way on all screen sizes: both blocks will be on-screen and one of them will be twice as wide as the other one.

Okay, so the layout is responsive and adapts to screen size, but what happens with style options? We’ll tell you. You can use a multitude of CSS file for a single HMTL code with a layout. By using the right file for a layout, you can reach full responsiveness with all known devices.

To make this job easier, there are lots of various CSS frameworks. We won’t go deep into their functionality, but here are a few of the most popular ones:

  • Bootstrap 4;
  • Zurb Foundation;
  • Pure CSS;
  • Materialize CSS.

2. Flexible imagery

The problem of adapting images is solved in a similar manner. The only global difference is the fact that a flexible layout’s size is calculated depending on the used device’s screen size and an image uses the precalculated size of a container.

Schematically this process looks like this:

Screen size → Grid element size → Image size

It’s set like this in the code:

img {width: 100%; max-width: 100%}

Here we match the image’s size with the container’s size, but never larger than its original. This way the image size will never exceed that of its container and its own resolution.

3. Media queries

Media queries allow for correcting design elements without having to edit the layout itself. For example, it is possible to merge two columns into one for a certain browser or screen type for better accessibility.

Responsive web design best practices

Before, media queries were necessary and their usage was a required portion of the responsive design. But in 2018, the functionality of the Flexbot, CSS Grid, and Multi-column layout modules have extended. In most cases, you don’t have to use media queries to create flexible content blocks.

How to make a website responsive: 8 best practices

To create a responsive design, you should stick to some of the best principles:

1. Flow.

The smaller the screen, the smaller your website’s width will be. By decreasing width, height is automatically increased. Due to that, all consecutive elements are moved downwards. This process is called flow.

2. Relative measurement units.

Don’t use static data to set your website elements’ sizes. Set your options with a percentage ratio.

3. Breakpoints.

An irreplaceable instrument for adapting websites to handheld devices. Setting breakpoints allows setting locations and conditions for changing the design. This way, you can control where and what devices a different layout should be used for.

Let’s imagine your main website version has three columns. But you have decided that for a screen that’s thinner than 980 pixels that kind of layout is not a reasonable choice. By setting a breakpoint in that place, you can create a condition as well as a new structure: for a screen thinner than 980 pixels – only two columns will be displayed; thinner than 640 – only one will remain.

Standard breakpoints for responsive design

This strategy allows relieving the mobile version of excess elements, leaving only the most important information onscreen.

4. Max- and min- values

Don’t forget to set the minimum and maximum values. On most screens setting element sizes in a percentage ratio to the screen resolution will look organic. However, on huge screens using full-width imagery is not a good choice. With the help of max and min, you can set parameters which your objects cannot exceed, regardless of the device’s screen size.

5. Nested elements

Use a single container for smaller objects situated next to each other. Managing a single container is much easier than having to deal with several objects bound to each other.

6. Desktop or mobile first

Which version to use as the main one and which one to set breakpoints for is a matter of taste. Both variants are equal and you may use either one.

7. Web fonts vs system fonts

Both strategies have their pros and cons. If you want to be creative about stylizing your text, then, of course, web fonts are the way to go. But keep in mind that additional modules that are needed to load them will have a negative effect on your site’s loading times. If saving time is more important to you, stick to standard fonts.

8. Raster vs vector imagery

In short, a raster image is a picture created with tiny dots of various color and brightness. A vector image, however, consists of reference points and vector lines which connect them. Any of those variants can turn out as preferable depending on what you want to display on your page.

We’ll tell you about their good and bad sides so you can decide which one’s perfect for you.


Raster vs vector image

The advantage of raster images is that you can use those to create images of any complexity. Including those which use lots of colors and gradients.

The disadvantages of such images would be:

  • High definition pictures take up a lot of hard drive space;
  • Pictures lose quality upon enlarging.

Vector images have two main advantages:

  • Enlarging doesn’t cause quality loss;
  • You can edit them without losing quality.

But there are also cons:

  • You can’t use vector images to create complex pictures;
  • Converting a vector image into a raster one can cause complexities.

We hope this article cleared the topic of responsive design for you and you picked up a couple of strategies on how to make your website adapt to more types of devices.

Any thoughts on responsive design? Please leave your feedback in the comments section and don’t forget to share the article with your friends on socials.

Responsive Web Design – What It Is and How To Make It
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2019-01-29T10:01:37-05:00 January 29th, 2019|

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