The Essentials of Responsive Web Design
When the first edition of this book came out in 2012, responsive web design was a new and exciting possibility to address the needs of the ever-growing list of devices that could access the internet. A decade later, as I write this in 2022, it’s simply the de facto standard. If you’re building a website or web application and it isn’t responsive, you’re probably doing it wrong!
This first chapter serves as a quick and basic refresher on building out an extremely simple web design, responsively. By the end, we will have covered everything needed to author a fully responsive web page.
You might be wondering, why do we need the other chapters then? By the end of this chapter, that should be apparent too.
Here’s what we will cover in this first chapter:
- The ever-evolving browser and device landscape
- Defining responsive web design
- Setting browser support levels
- A brief discussion...
The browser and device landscape
A little over a decade ago, it was reasonable to build websites with fixed widths. The device landscape was a whole lot more limited, so the expectation was that all end users would get a fairly consistent experience. This fixed width (typically 960 px wide or thereabouts) wasn’t too wide for laptop screens, and users with large-resolution monitors merely had an abundance of space on either side.
But in 2007, Apple’s iPhone ushered in the first truly usable phone browsing experience, and the way people accessed and interacted with the web changed forever.
In the first edition of this book, published in early 2012, the following was noted about the percentage of total browser usage by device type recorded at gs.statcounter.com:
…in the 12 months from July 2010 to July 2011, global mobile browser use had risen from 2.86 to 7.02 percent…
By September 2019, writing the third edition, using StatCounter, mobile...
Defining responsive web design
The term responsive web design was coined by Ethan Marcotte in 2010. In his seminal A List Apart article, http://www.alistapart.com/articles/responsive-web-design, he consolidated three existing techniques (flexible grid layout, flexible images/media, and media queries) into one unified approach and named it responsive web design.
Responsive web design in a nutshell
In its infancy, it was typical for responsive design to be implemented by starting with a fixed-width desktop design before trying to scale the design down as needed for smaller screens. However, processes evolved and it became apparent there was a better way. Namely, that everything from design to content management and development worked better when starting with...
Our first responsive example
In the introduction, I promised that by the end of this chapter you would know all you needed to build a fully responsive web page. So far, I’ve just been talking around the issue at hand. It’s time to walk the walk.
You can download all the code samples from this book by visiting https://github.com/benfrain/rwd4 or the book’s dedicated website, rwd.education. It’s worth knowing that where individual examples are built up throughout a chapter, there will typically be a “start” and “end” version for each. The start contains just the essentials to start following along. The end contains the completed exercise/example.
Our basic HTML file
We will start with a simple HTML5 structure. Don’t worry at this point about what each of the lines does, especially the content of the
<head>, as we will cover that in detail in Chapter 2, Writing HTML Markup...
Well done, you now know and understand the essential elements needed to create a fully responsive web page. However, as we have just discovered, there are plenty of places where things could be improved.
But that’s fine. We don’t just want the ability to make competent responsive web designs, we want to be able to create “best-of-breed” experiences. And as you’re here, investing your time for the betterment of websites everywhere, I know you’re up to the challenge. So let’s press on.
In the next chapter, Chapter 2, Writing HTML Markup, we are going to take a deep dive into HTML5 markup. HTML is the very skeleton of any web page or application, the bedrock on which to build anything meaningful, the oxygen a website breathes, the… OK, I’m out of analogies – suffice it to say, HTML is pretty important, so let’s press on and get stuck in.
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