What Is a Responsive Web Design And How To Use It

What Is a Responsive Web Design And How To Use It

Modern smartphones, tablets, desktops, game consoles, and TV display different diagonals. How do websites successfully adapt to millions of various screen sizes? It’s possible thanks to responsive web design. Below we will talk about its principles and features.

What does responsive web design mean?

Responsive web design (RWD) is the method of web development. It allows the creation of dynamic changes to the appearance of a website, taking into account the screen size and orientation of the device. The RWD is a popular approach to the problem of displaying information on multiple devices available to customers, including small phones and huge computer monitors.

RWD uses particular breakpoints to understand what the layout of a site will look like, one design uses above the breakpoint, and another design applies below such breakpoint. When determining the breakpoints, it’s essential to know the browser’s width.

The same HTML arrives on all devices through CSS (it determines the web page’s layout) to change the page’s appearance. Instead of building a separate site with a suitable codebase for smartphones, tablets, laptops, and colossal computer screens, a single codebase supports users with different displays.

In responsive design, page components regroup, depending on whether the screen is large or small; a three-column desktop design can transform into two columns for tablets and one if we are dealing with phones. RWD uses the proportion-based grid to change the content and design components.

Initially, developers created a responsive design to guarantee equal access to the data for owners of all devices. Still, nowadays, it also allows hiding some details (background pictures or the additional navigation) for small screen sizes. When deciding to hide content or change the appearance of specific devices, you need to analyze customer needs.


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Advantages and disadvantages of RWD

Responsive web design makes web designers’ lives more accessible because they don’t have to work day and night creating an interface for every device. It is also beneficial for business owners, administrators, and marketers.

Here is the list of main pros of responsive web design:

  • One site for all devices. Whether you open the site on a 27-inch iMac or an Android smartphone, all information on the pages displays correctly.
  • Optimal design for different gadgets. Responsive web design allows correctly scaling all images, fonts, and other HTML components; it also maximizes user screen size.
  • No redirect. Other design variants for multiple devices require a redirect to the suitable version of a web page. Due to the lack of redirection, a person quickly gets access to exciting content.
  • It’s a cost-effective and SEO-friendly solution that promotes minimalism in design.

Such a decision also has some cons:

  • Less control over design screen sizes.
  • Components often shift on their own.
  • There may be difficulties with ad formats.
  • You need to wait longer for the web page to load.

Generally, responsive design is a powerful and economical approach, but its «simplicity» is deceiving. You can still run into problems if you use such improvement without caution.

How to create a responsive website?

The modern responsive web design involves more than adjustable screen resolution, automatic image resizing, and an updated design approach. Let’s talk about all these functions and additional ideas in the development.

Set the acceptable breakpoints

People access websites from devices with various screen sizes and resolutions. It’s essential that the software correctly displays images and content across each screen size without distortion or clipping. Developers use breakpoints in code to achieve the perfect picture. Website data responds to such points and automatically adapts to the screen size.

We advise using breakpoints for the most popular resolutions of laptops, tablets, and smartphones, such as 1920×1080, 1366×768, 360×640, and others.

Choose a fluid grid

Previously, developers built websites on pixel measurements. Nowadays, web designers prefer the fluid grid, which sets web components on the site proportionally to the device’s diagonal. Instead of creating pieces of a single size (a certain number of pixels), all details on a fluid grid instantly resize depending on the parameters of the gadget.

A fluid grid divided into columns, the developer can scale width and height; it’s not necessary to set fixed dimensions. Such fluid construction enables faster design decisions.

Don’t forget about touchscreens

If you want to build a responsive website, remember that all modern smartphones and tablets have touch screens. Some laptop models also offer a touch screen along with the standard keyboard.

Any responsive website must adapt to successful access via touchscreen. For example, image, there is a drop-down menu on the homepage:

  • Each menu item should be large enough comfortable to press on the desktop view with your fingertip.
  • Small components like buttons should be easier to detect and select on smartphone screens.

To achieve a high comfort level, optimize these elements to display correctly on different gadgets.


Use only responsive images and videos

When designing a mobile site, it is possible to create content beyond the specified viewport. Adjust the images and video to fit within the screen’s width without the user having to scroll horizontally on the page.

To make responsive pictures, specialists choose modern image tag attributes, which help the image to respond quickly to multiple devices and screen resolutions.

The main components of the visual element’s code:

  • Setting max-width allows the picture to adjust its size.
  • picture, source, and img tags unite to display only one image, which is most suitable for a specific device model.
  • source creates a link to a WebP image. WebP is a particular format of the picture with advanced compression.
  • srcset sends a notification to the browser about which the image is better to show depending on the screen resolution of the gadget
  • loading=” lazy” attribute / value pair: it is responsible for lazy loading.

Web designers prescribe all these components in the code to get responsive pictures.

If we speak about responsive video, it’s essential to use the aspect ratio.

Essential components of code:

  • position: relative is placed on the container components, that’s child components use absolute positioning towards it.
  • height: if 0 is together with padding-bottom: 56.25%, such parameters realize dynamic behavior with a 16:9 aspect ratio.
  • position: absolute, top: 0 и left: 0 you can choose on the iframe, then web-components locate themselves relative to their parent.
  • width and height of 100% mean that the child, iframe element, is 100% of its parent.
  • videoWrapper is used to set layout aspect ratio.

The correct code allows embedding a YouTube video as an iframe.

Responsive typography

Another essential element of a responsive website is responsive typography. It describes changing font sizes in media queries to display a particular screen space.

Imagine, the developer sets the level 1 heading to 4rem. In other words, it must be four times larger than the base font size. A gigantic heading is only suitable for large screens; that’s why to start, specialists write a small header and then overwrite it with the larger size through media queries if they know the user screen size is at least 1200px.

This approach demonstrates that media queries help change the web page’s layout. They allow customizing different elements to make them more attractive and comfortable to work with various sizes of displays.

Viewport units for responsive typography

Web designers often choose the viewport unit vw to enable responsive typography. 1vw means one percent of the viewport width. In other words, if you set the font size in vw, it’s always connected with the size of the viewport.

Such an approach has some difficulties; e.g., users cannot scale text using the vw unit because they are connected with the screen’s size. That’s why you should never customize the text using only viewport units.

You can solve this problem using calc. The zoom function will be available if you add the vw unit to a fixed size value set.

Such options allow specifying the font size for the heading once; you don’t need to work separately with different screen sizes and change media queries. The font size increases as the viewport expands.

The viewport meta tag

When we look at the HTML source of a responsive web page, we always see a <meta> tag at the top of the document. This meta tag explains mobile browsers and what viewport width they should set according to the device width, and helps scale the document to 100% of its intended size.

Why is it so important? The fact is that mobile browsers often lie about their viewport width. If you have a narrow screen layout that kicks in at 480px viewport width, but specialists set the viewport at 980px, you’ll never see your narrow screen layout on the device. So you must always include the above line of HTML.

The list of other options for a meta tag:

  • initial-scale: to define the basic zoom of the page,
  • height: sets the chosen height for the viewport,
  • minimum-scale / maximum-scale sets the minimum / maximum zoom value,
  • user-scalable: limits scaling if set to no.

We recommend avoiding minimum-scale and maximum-scale to make it convenient for the user to work with the document.

Try a pre-designed theme or layout

If you are not a web designer with extensive experience, you can use a ready-made template. You will need to change the color scheme, branding and add important content.

As to WordPress, many paid and free themes are available that are responsive right out of the box.

How to run responsive tests

When you complete the research and successfully build the website, we recommend doing some checks. To make sure that the site is responsive, you need to run tests on different browsers and gadgets, in short, in actual user conditions.

There are a lot of responsive websites design checkers on the Internet. You don’t need to buy devices from different companies, enter the URL into the checker and see what it looks like on various real smartphones. Programs support checks on flagship devices Samsung, iPhone, and other well-known brands.

Besides, you can register on a real device cloud and get access to more than 3000 gadgets and browsers. Check the site’s design on the latest browsers and smartphones so that there are no data display problems in the future.


Humanity enters a new era of web design and development. Nowadays, many variants are available, and their number will increase in the future to continue creating and customizing convenient solutions for different screen sizes and devices. We need to consider these global changes to build sites ready for the future today. Comprehending what is a responsive website and how to make it doesn’t require specific knowledge, and it’s less nerve-racking and more effective than trying to understand coding and design rules for every single device.

Responsive web design and its most common techniques are not the final answer to the mobile world that is constantly changing. Responsive Web design is a concept that can improve user experience (but not solve all problems) if you implement it correctly. Developers must continuously work with new devices, resolutions, and technologies to improve the user experience as technology evolves.

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