These days, nearly every new client wants a mobile version of their website. After all, it is practically necessary to have separate designs for the BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad, netbook, and Kindle, as well as to ensure that all screen resolutions are compatible. We’ll probably need to plan for a number of additional inventions over the next five years. When will the lunacy end? Of course, it would never.

We’re rapidly approaching the point in the field of Web design and development where we can no longer keep up with the never-ending new resolutions and devices. For many websites, it would be impossible or at the very least impractical to create a responsive web design for each resolution and new device. Should we just accept the negative effects of losing customers from one device in exchange for gaining customers from another? Or is there a different choice?

What is Responsive Web Design?

According to the principle of responsive web design, design and development should adapt to the environment and behaviour of users based on factors such as screen size, platform, and orientation.

The technique combines flexible grids and layouts, images, and a clever application of CSS media queries. The website should automatically switch to account for resolution, image size, and scripting capabilities as the user switches from their laptop to an iPad. The user may also need to check the settings on their devices; for instance, if the user has an iOS VPN installed on their iPad, the website shouldn’t stop them from visiting the page. In other words, the website should be equipped with the necessary technology to react to user preferences automatically. As a result, there would be no need for a separate design and development stage for each new device that was released on the market. This is what responsive web design actually is.

The Principles of Responsive Web Design

For a List Apart, Ethan Marcotte wrote an introduction to the Responsive Web Design methodology. It derives from the idea of responsive architectural design, in which a room or space automatically adapts to the number of people and their movement through it:

We can apply this discipline to web design and come up with something similar but completely different. Why should we make a unique Web design for each group of users; after all, even architects don’t make buildings for every size and type of group that enters them. Similar to responsive architecture, web design ought to adapt automatically. For every new category of users, there shouldn’t be countless custom solutions needed.

Obviously, we can’t do this with robotics and motion sensors the way a building would. A more abstract way of thinking is necessary for responsive web design. However, some concepts are already being used, such as fluid layouts, media queries, and scripts that can easily (or automatically) reformat Web pages and markup.

But responsive web design is about a completely different way of thinking about design, not just adjusting screen resolutions and automatically resizing images. Let’s discuss each of these elements one by one.

1. Adjusting Screen Resolution

As there are more devices, there are more screen definitions, orientations, and resolutions. Each of these devices might be able to handle variations in size, functionality, and even colour. New devices with new screen sizes are being created every new day. Others are in portrait mode, while still, others are entirely square. Many modern devices can switch from portrait to landscape modes at the user’s demand, as evidenced by the increasing popularity of the iPhone, iPad, and sophisticated smartphones. How does one should plan for these circumstances?

We must keep in mind the hundreds of different screen sizes in addition to designing for both landscape and portrait orientations (and enabling those orientations to potentially switch in an instant upon page load). Yes, it is possible to divide them into broad categories, create designs for each, and then adjust each design as needed. However, it can be a lot to take in, and who knows how much usage there will be in five years. In addition, a lot of users don’t maximise their browsers, which by itself leaves an excessive amount of room for different screen sizes.

Even more, devices have been released in the last 20 years. It is clear that we cannot keep developing unique solutions for each. How then should we approach the problem?

2. Flexible Images

Working with images is a major issue that responsive Web design needs to address. There are many methods for proportionally resizing images, and many of them are simple to use. The most common solution is to use CSS’s max-width for a quick fix.

Every image will load in its original size unless the viewing area becomes narrower than the image’s original width, as long as no other width-based image styles disobey this rule. Since the image’s maximum width is set to 100% of the screen’s or the browser’s width, when that 100% gets smaller, so does the image. Fundamentally, fluid images work by delivering images at the largest possible size for the intended use, as Jason Grigsby pointed out. Instead of declaring the images’ height and width in the code, you let the browser resize them as necessary while using CSS to specify their relative sizes. It’s an excellent and straightforward method for stunning image resizing.

You should keep in mind that IE does not support max-width, but a wise use of width: 100% in an IE-specific style sheet would neatly solve the issue without giving too much stress. Another issue is that rendering isn’t as clear as it should be when an image is resized too small in some older Windows browsers. To resolve this problem, however, there is Java Script that can be found in Ethan Marcotte’s article.

3. Media Queries

CSS3 adds dozens of new media features, such as max-width, device width, orientation, and colour, while still supporting all of the same media types as CSS 2.1, including screen, print, and handheld. Media features will undoubtedly be supported by new devices created after the release of CSS3 (such as the iPad and Android devices). It would therefore be fine to target these devices with a media query that uses CSS3 features, and it will be ignored by an older computer browser that does not support CSS3.

Other new CSS3 features include device width, min-device width, orientation (portrait vs. landscape), and more. You can find out more about determining and limiting widths based on these media query features by reading “The Orientation Media Query.”

In addition to creating multiple style sheets, one can define simple layout
adjustments to fit a range of widths, even for portrait versus landscape orientations. Media queries are such crucial principles in making a responsive web design.

Conclusion

Web design and development are indeed entering a new era. There are currently and will continue to be far too many options to adjust and develop unique solutions for every screen size, device, and technological development. Instead, let’s usher in a new era today by building websites that are prepared for the future. It doesn’t take much learning to make a design responsive web design, and it can be much less stressful and more useful than learning how to design and code correctly for every single device out there.

The techniques mentioned above and responsive web design are not the only solutions to the ever-evolving mobile world. The user experience for the website can be improved with a great responsive web design when used properly, but it does not entirely address all user, device, and platform issues. As technology advances in the upcoming years, we will need to constantly experiment with new gadgets, screens, and technologies in order to continually enhance the user experience.

Responsive web design is best for engaging the audience and it also prevents us from getting frustrated. A better user experience results from every custom solution. We can develop specialised solutions with responsive Web design for a wider range of users, on a wider range of devices. A website can be customised just as well for someone using an outdated laptop or device as it can for the vast majority of users using the newest technology, and just as well for the select few users who currently own the most cutting-edge technology and will in the future. Everyone has a wonderful, personalised experience thanks to the latest responsive web design. That’s what we all aim for as Web designers on every project, right?

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