Responsive Web Design

Published on June 12, 2011

The implementation and advocacy of responsive web design is increasing, and possibly fully manifested in the web design community. Are you taking part?

What Is Responsive Design?

Responsive web design, basically means your website responds to different screen sizes. So, people browsing your site on a Smartphone, Tablet, Netbook or Desktop all get a usable (and hopefully similar, but not exact) experience.

Types of Responses

There are two main ways to respond to various screen sizes and devices, with: responsive designs or adaptive designs. Responsive design usually means a fluid grid, using percentages. See: Stephen Caver's Portfolio and Maykel Loomans' Blog. And, adaptive design usually means you have fixed grid, that adapts (changes) depending on the screen size. See: Mr. Simon Collison and Authentic Jobs. You could also use a combination of both, sort of like my Blog that you’re reading now.

Media Queries

CSS3 media queries, quite literally, let you query different media types, screen, print and handheld as well as other helpful properties such as min-width, max-width, orientation and others. Media queries easily let you define your CSS for any screen size by querying the min-width and max-width. So, all you really need to know are the common screen widths. According to Bryan Rieger the “major breakpoints are 0-320, 320-720, 720+ with minor breakpoints dependent on content and key devices (ie: 360, 480, 768, etc).”

What Does This Mean?

In the below snippet, I have included the exact media queries that I use, as well as a few (one, for now) examples from popular CSS frameworks and authors.

So, if you’re like me and usually develop a new grid for each website you design (which, I highly recommend) those media queries are really helpful in adjusting your design for specific devices and screen widths. And, if you like using boilerplates/frameworks and often design a 960px grid, Skeleton is great.

But How Should I Adjust My Design For Each Query

Obviously, you can’t just continuously shrink your column widths—eventually you’d have content trying to fit into 20px columns! So, commonly, you'll end up dropping the number of columns. If you’re full-width design has 6 blocks floating together, you might have to drop that for each query: 4 blocks a row; 3 blocks a row; 2 blocks a row; everything in a single column.

That’s It!

Really. Responsive web design is not much work. I would say, for the bare minimum, design your full width site, Ipad width of 768px and mobile width of 320px.

For corrections, comments and questions message me @staydecent.