Responsive web design has been one of the most significant advancements in web development. However, Ensuring layouts, elements, and text are harmonious in different screen dimensions can be a royal pain. These days, there are many screen sizes for mobile devices, making things even more complex.
That’s why responsive web design remains a major challenge for web designers. The worst part is that it’s twice as relevant as frustrating. Responsive design is one of the main pillars of user experience and SEO. Thus, it’s a mandatory step for making successful websites.
CSS is responsible for most of what responsive web design embodies, ensuring that the site looks great on a wide range of devices. In a previous article about advanced CSS concepts and tips, we covered some hacks for a responsive web design approach. Regardless, we’ve gone deeper into the best practices to make websites fully responsive this time. We’ll start with how you should with some responsive design techniques.
6 Tips for Responsive Web Design with CSS
Over the past few years, CSS has brought many tools to make responsive design less burdensome. However, having the right mindset may be as important as knowing how to use these tools. First of all, you must adopt a mobile-first approach. Around 92.3% of traffic comes from mobile users!
Also, remember that as long as you set the meta tag name to "viewport," your HTML code should be "responsive." It may not look fantastic on any device, but it'll look ok until you add CSS. You must focus on the app's global picture before writing your first line of CSS code.
Making your website responsive (and your job easier) has a lot to do with keeping the initial responsiveness of the site. Think that's something you want to stay instead of something you want to achieve. That said, let's move on to our top 5 tips for CSS Responsive Design:
1. Don’t Set Specific Breakpoints. As mentioned, there are considerable devices and screen sizes to worry about in responsive website design. Thus, designing complex layouts that target every screen size separately is a horrible solution. You’ll write too many breakpoints to take care of that. That, as you can imagine, isn’t efficient whatsoever. Hence, we can’t overstate to focus on the bigger picture before writing any CSS code.
2. Avoid Using Fixed Sizes. Setting a fixed size for an element or an image (e.g., width: 500px; height: 600px;) is equal to thinking about only one screen size. Therefore, issues will likely happen on the device you weren’t working on. Instead, using percentage values or em as units is best when setting HTML elements, text, or image size.
3. Improve Your CSS Understanding. Having a basic understanding of CSS concepts, like inheritance, pseudo-elements, positioning, and units (em, rem, vh, wh, %), will significantly help your responsive design. Also, learning how the box model, CSS syntax, and architecture work is fundamental to guaranteeing responsiveness.
4. Use Media Queries Effectively. CSS Media Queries have been one of the main pillars of responsive web design for a long time. They let you modify a website’s behavior and appearance based on screen size, and this is particularly helpful as making a website look perfect on any device with the same code is almost impossible. As mentioned, it’s best to focus on the mobile version of your site. Therefore, you can use media queries to scale up to desktop versions. Also, using min-width instead of a specific breakpoint will simplify maintenance and give you more flexibility.
5. Implement Modern CSS Tools. Embrace flexbox and flexible grid layouts' power to organize and regroup elements without using media queries. The goal is to use the least possible hacks or tricks (like media queries) to ensure your website is fully responsive. Hence, it's great to use them to arrange elements and ensure they adapt to different devices.
Another excellent modern CSS feature that you can use instead of media queries is @container. Rather than focusing on the viewport, it lets you change an element's style based on its parent container size or space (width and height).
The viewport feature gives some elements enough space to display correctly. Yet, some other elements may still need more space in the container to display their content fully. There's where @container comes in handy. Since components will change their styles depending on their specific width and height, this tool goes fantastic with component-based libraries like Next UI, Material UI, and Riot.js.
6. Master Min, Max, And Clamp. Min (), max(), and clamp() are powerful CSS functions that can help you ensure your website is responsive without using too many media queries. Some experts recommend using min() to style the width of an element and max() to style the margin and padding. The min() function lets elements shrink as you reduce the screen size, preventing them from becoming too small. Since it receives two values, it allows you to create fluid layouts easily.
Conversely, the max() function, which also takes two values, prevents elements from getting too large on larger screens. You can also use it to improve readability, or better yet, use clamp() to take care of that. The clamp() function receives three values: minimum, ideal, and maximum. This way, the font size will smoothly scale up or down as the screen size changes.
You can just take your time to plan how you'll style your website in a way that harmonizes with different screen sizes before jumping on adding CSS style. That's how you save the most time and prevent headaches as you scale up your site. Plus, it's much better to focus on the intrinsic qualities of each element instead of worrying about any single breakpoint when consolidating optimal experiences for your users.