2 Must-Know Tips for Responsive Web Design (And a Handful of Other Neat Tricks)

Responsive websites rule the web now that so many people browse on their phone. With all the different screen sizes available (as well as accommodating traditional monitor laptop layouts), today’s website needs to look good no matter what its displaying on.

A website with a responsive design is a website that renders perfectly across all these devices. Performance and design are both very important, but it is now necessary for a website to be responsive to ensure usability and user satisfaction. By following these steps, you will have a general overview of what it takes to have a fully responsive website. 

1: Responsive Design Requires Setting the Viewport

The viewport is the visible portion of the webpage on a user’s device. When you intend for a new page to be responsive, you must include a viewport tag in the head of the document.

Viewport Tag:

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0">

What's it do?


This will tell your page to follow the screen width of the device being used.


Sets the zoom level to default when the page is loaded.

If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with a traditionally designed website failing to display well on smaller screens. Older websites were often designed with static dimensions in mind because designers could count on a fairly standard viewport. But nowadays, the responsive designer must take control of the viewport.

2: Size your Content for Scalability

Controlling the viewport is just the start. There are a lot of other design choices you must make correctly to ensure a great user experience no matter what they’re using.

Try not to use fixed-width elements

When you’re setting your widths, go with percentages rather than fixed width amounts to ensure it scales as the screen size changes.

This means rather than an image getting cut off with a user having to scroll horizontally to see the rest of it, the device will know to scale the image such that the entire width is visible on-screen. From there, a user can zoom in if they do want to see those details.

Create modules and content that can display well on a smaller screen

Not everything looks great on a smaller screen. Bear in mind that big blocky elements that sit in rows on your desktop are likely going to stack vertically on a smaller screen. This may well still look good, but it does mean that content that appears much higher up on a larger screen can now take a little scrolling to reach.

Use media queries to set limits on screen size for your CSS styling

Media queries allow you to get information about what your content is being displayed upon. When we’re thinking about responsive design, you can use these to define limits on your CSS styling.

This means you can have certain things render one way on a wider screen and another on a smartphone. This allows you to adapt to the strengths and requirements of differently sized screen and create a seamless experience that works well whatever you’re dealing with.

Media Query Example:

@media only screen and (max-width: 600px) { [CSS Code Here] }

The important part is:

max-width: 600px

This is the limit you set in which your CSS code will operate.

Other Good Practices:

You’re well on your way to excellently designed responsive websites with these two tips, but here’s three more quick good practices you should bear in mind with every design:

  • Instead of using set width in set values, using percentages will only use part of the available space.
  • Sometimes it is more efficient to take a mobile first design approach. This means designing your mobile view before expanding to a desktop view.
  • Stay away from too many hover effects as they will not be supported on a mobile device.

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