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How To Make A Responsive Web Design?

by | Apr 8, 2024


In today’s ever-evolving digital landscape, responsive web design (RWD) is not merely a trend but a fundamental requirement.

With the surge in mobile device usage, websites must now adapt to screens of all sizes to ensure a seamless user experience. This ultimately means shifting web development focus towards creating versatile sites that respond effectively to the variety of devices used for internet access, thereby enhancing user engagement and accessibility.

Understanding Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design essentially means crafting websites to provide an optimal viewing experience across a wide range of devices. By automatically adapting to the size of the user’s screen, responsive design ensures that a website is easily navigable and visually pleasing on any device. This typically involves using flexible grids and layouts, images, and CSS media queries. 

Responsive design differs fundamentally from adaptive design, which employs static layouts that adapt to predetermined screen sizes. While adaptive design creates a customised experience at specific breakpoints, responsive design fluidly transforms to fit any screen size. This distinction highlights responsive design’s ability to offer a more unified and cohesive user experience across all devices, making it the preferred choice for a web that’s increasingly mobile.

The Need for Responsive Web Design

With approximately 5.84 million internet users in Singapore, and a mobile internet penetration rate surpassing 95%, the emphasis on mobile-friendly web experiences has never been more critical. This statistic is just an example of the global shift towards mobile usage, pushing Singaporean businesses and web developers to prioritise responsive web design

Additionally, with Google introducing mobile-first indexing, responsive web design has never been more crucial. As announced on Google Search Central, Google now predominantly uses the mobile version of a site’s content, crawled with the smartphone agent, for indexing and ranking. This means that unoptimised sites will face detrimental dips in search performance and rankings as mobile user experience is prioritised. This monumental shift underscores the profound impact that mobile optimisation now has on a site’s visibility and success in search engine optimisation (SEO), further highlighting the importance of responsive web design.

How to Create a Responsive Web Design

Embarking on creating responsive web designs entails:

1. Setting Up a Flexible Grid System

Fluid grids are essential for responsive design, allowing elements to resize in relation to the screen. This system replaces fixed-width layouts, ensuring content looks consistent across devices. Additionally, a fluid grid’s flexibility enhances user experience by maintaining layout integrity and facilitating quicker design adjustments. Here are the steps you can take to implement a fluid grid system:

  1. Determine the maximum layout size.
  2. Divide the layout into a grid system.
  3. Assign relative units (percentages) for column widths.
  4. Scale images and content to fit grid columns.
  5. Test responsiveness across different devices.

2. Utilising Flexible Images and Media

Incorporating flexible images and media ensures they adapt within the fluid grid, enhancing the responsiveness of a website.

How to Code Responsive Images

For responsive web design, employ modern HTML and CSS features to adjust image sizes dynamically, ensuring compatibility with diverse screen resolutions. Take the following code as an example:

How to Code Responsive Videos

Utilise CSS to maintain aspect ratios for videos, ensuring they resize smoothly across devices. Here is an example of how this can be done:

3. Utilising Media Queries

Media queries are CSS tools that apply styles based on the device’s characteristics, such as its width, resolution, or orientation.

To effectively utilise media queries, it’s essential to first determine the “responsive breakpoints” or screen size breakpoints. A breakpoint is defined as the screen width at which you employ a media query to introduce new CSS styles. If you are taking a mobile-first approach, which typically involves a single column layout and smaller font sizes as a foundation, breakpoints will not be necessary — unless there’s a desire to refine the design for particular models. This means that a basic responsive web design can be achieved with just two breakpoints: one for tablets and another for laptops and desktop computers. These are examples of common screen sizes (px) which will inform the breakpoints:

  • Mobile: 360 x 640
  • Mobile: 375 x 667
  • Mobile: 360 x 720
  • iPhone X: 375 x 812
  • Pixel 2: 411 x 731
  • Tablet: 768 x 1024
  • Laptop: 1366 x 768
  • High-Resolution Laptops and Desktops: 1920 x 1080

While each device requires distinct CSS breakpoints based on screen resolution, employing CSS breakpoints for every individual device width is not necessary. Given the continuous influx of new devices, it’s impractical to establish CSS breakpoints for each device. Instead, it’s best to select breakpoints that reflect the web design and audience usage patterns for target devices within specific markets. This strategy ensures a more efficient and targeted approach to responsive design. These are examples of common media query breakpoints:

  • Mobile: 320px  – 480px
  • iPads and Tablets: 481px  – 768px
  • Laptops and small screens: 769px  – 1024px
  • Large screens and Desktops: 1025px  – 1200px
  • TV and Extra Large Screens: 1201px and above

4. Employing Responsive Typography

Responsive typography ensures text readability and comfort across all devices, crucial for a positive user experience. In order to scale text and content with responsive typography, relative units such as EMs, REMs, VWs should be utilised over absolute units. This is because relative units are based on the parent element, the root element, or the viewport size, respectively, so text and content will resize proportionally and dynamically according to the screen size.

How to Use EM

Using EMs for responsive typography involves scaling text relative to the font size of its parent element. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how it can be used:

  1. Determine Base Font Size: Start by setting a base font size for the body element in CSS. This acts as a reference point for calculating EM values.
  2. Calculate EM Values: To calculate EM values for different text elements, divide the desired font size by the parent element’s font size. For example, if the parent’s font size is 16px and you want an element’s font size to be 24px, you would use 1.5EM (24/16 = 1.5).
  3. Apply EM Values: Assign the calculated em values to your CSS properties for font size, padding, or margin to make them responsive.
  4. Test Responsiveness: Adjust the browser size to ensure that the typography scales correctly and maintains readability across devices.

How to Use REM

REMs are similar to EMs but are always relative to the root (html) element’s font size, providing consistency across the design. Here’s how to use REMs:

  1. Set Root Font Size: Define a font size in the root html element. This size will serve as the reference for all rem calculations.
  2. Calculate REM Values: To calculate REM values for different elements, divide the desired font size by the root element’s font size. For instance, with a root font size of 16px and a desired size of 24px, the calculation would be 1.5rem.
  3. Apply REM Values: Apply these REM values to the font-size property (as well as padding and margin if needed) in your CSS to ensure elements scale appropriately.
  4. Ensure Uniform Scaling: Check your design on various devices to confirm that the typography uniformly scales, enhancing readability.

How to Use VW

Viewport width (VW) units allow typography to adjust based on the width of the viewport, making it highly responsive. Here’s an example of how to use VW for responsive web design typography:

  1. Understand VW Unit: 1VW is equal to 1% of the viewport’s width. Therefore, a font size of 10VW would be 10% of the viewport’s width.
  2. Determine Font Size: Decide on the vw value for your typography based on how you want it to scale with the viewport. For example, for a headline, you might start with 4VW.
  3. Apply VW to Font Size: Use the VW unit for the font-size property in your CSS. This makes the font size flexible and responsive to the width of the viewport.
  4. Adjust for Readability: While VW units offer great flexibility, ensure your typography remains readable on small screens by setting minimum font sizes or using media queries to adjust font sizes at specific breakpoints.

Software and Tools for Responsive Web Design

There exists a plethora of software and tools dedicated to responsive web design, offering extensive advantages. Exploring and utilising these tools can significantly streamline the design process, overcome common designing hurdles, and ensure that websites provide an optimal viewing experience across a variety of devices.

Tools for Responsive Frameworks

Responsive frameworks offer a fundamental structure with features tailored to meet device-specific design requirements. These frameworks simplify the development process by providing a comprehensive package of standard codes in various programming languages necessary for crafting a website. Leading responsive web design frameworks include:

  1. Bootstrap
  2. Pure CSS
  3. Montage
  4. Material UI
  5. Laravel

Tools for Designing Responsive Wireframes

Wireframes and sketching tools are pivotal in the early stages of responsive web design, allowing designers to outline the structure of web pages and the user interface. These tools enable the visualisation of layouts and the planning of site functionality, making it easier to adjust designs for different screen sizes:

  1. Sketch
  2. Moqups
  3. Figma
  4. UXPin
  5. MockFlow

Tools for Testing Responsive Design

Testing and review software are indispensable for ensuring that a website’s responsive design performs well across all devices. These tools allow developers to simulate various screen sizes and resolutions, identify issues with the design or functionality, and make necessary adjustments before launch. Here are some testing tools you can consider using:

  1. Testsigma
  2. Responsinator
  3. Screenfly
  4. LambdaTest
  5. BrowserStack

Pros and Cons of Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design naturally comes with its pros and cons. On the plus side, it offers an improved user experience across various devices, enhances Search engine optimisation (SEO) performance due to Google’s mobile-first indexing, and proves cost-effective over time by eliminating the need for multiple site versions. These benefits stem from responsive design’s ability to provide a seamless viewing experience, thereby increasing site accessibility and engagement.

However, responsive design is not without its challenges. Initially, it can introduce complexity and extend development times as designers and developers work to ensure site flexibility across devices. Additionally, performance can suffer if the site is not properly optimised, leading to slow loading times. Furthermore, designing for responsiveness can complicate the incorporation of complex layouts and functionalities, requiring more sophisticated solutions.

Examples of Excellent Responsive Web Design

Observing the responsive web design of others can provide valuable insights and inspiration for improving your own designs. Here are some examples you can use:

1. Dropbox


Dropbox’s website exemplifies advanced responsive web design, showcasing adaptive layouts that seem to transform entirely based on the device used. This adaptability is evident through the expanded navigation bar on tablet and desktop views and a compact hamburger menu for mobile. Such meticulous customisation for each device highlights the potential to fine-tune user experiences remarkably.

2. Dribbble


Dribbble shines as a stellar example of responsive web design, illustrating the effectiveness of a flexible grid system. This approach allows for content to be neatly organised into dynamic columns, which adjust gracefully to the screen size, ensuring a clutter-free and enjoyable browsing experience, particularly on smaller devices where space is at a premium.

3. Etsy

Etsy’s use of a flexible grid ensures the site’s display is optimally adjusted for various devices, maintaining a consistent layout with minimal changes between tablet and desktop versions. On mobile, the design smartly scales down image grids to match the smaller screen, illustrating how subtle adjustments can significantly enhance user engagement.


Responsive Web Design Best Practices

When designing responsive websites, here are some tips you can follow to ensure optimal performance, usability, and user satisfaction:

  1. Streamline Navigation: Simplify choices using text with icons, in-page links, and collapsible menus to guide users effortlessly. Make primary pages straightforward to navigate, utilise alt text for images, choose legible fonts, and adopt inclusive language.
  2. Organise Content Prior to Design: Organise your content structure clearly to ensure that your design complements your site’s content and vice versa.
  3. Adopt Card Interfaces: Card UI patterns act as compact content containers, enhancing manageability. Utilise UXPin’s Auto Layout, based on flexbox principles, for responsive cards and components, facilitating an efficient design handoff by enabling direct CSS copy/paste.
  4. Minimise Content to Reduce Clutter: Websites with less content, HTML, CSS, and Javascript generally load faster and provide a better user experience.
  5. Ensure Buttons Have Large Clickable Areas: According to Fitts’s Law, larger clickable areas on buttons enhance user interaction. Therefore it is best to maintain sufficient whitespace around links and buttons to avoid accidental selections, minimising user irritation and improving the browsing experience.

How Heicoders Academy Can Help

If you’re looking for more insight and examples to better understand responsive web design and its applications, Heicoders Academy’s SE100 web design course is perfect for you!

This beginner-friendly course is designed to equip students with a solid foundation in web development technologies. It is ideal for those with no software engineering background, individuals looking to understand how the Internet and webpages work, and those aiming to develop their own webpages or manage web development projects within their companies.

Over 10 sessions, you will dive into everything from the basics of HTML and CSS to version control systems and software testing. At the end of the course, you will undertake a capstone project: building a cloud-hosted stock profile page using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. This project not only consolidates your learning but also boosts your portfolio, showcasing your new skills to potential employers. 

Furthermore, all SE100 graduates have the option to continue with subsequent courses in Heicoders Academy’s nanodegrees, designed to prepare and equip participants with the skills needed for securing prestigious positions at top companies.

Master Responsive Web Design Today

As mobile usage continues to rise, the ability to create flexible, user-friendly websites across devices is crucial to not only help it rank but also deliver excellent user experience.

The journey of learning how to make responsive web designs is not only rewarding but essential for any web professional aiming to make an impact in the digital space. It’s time to delve deeper into responsive web design!

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