The Definitive guide to responsive web design (2021) 1 year ago

Responsive design is an approach to web design that makes your web content adapt to the different screen and window sizes of a variety of devices.

With Internet access increasingly accessible from mobile devices, it is no longer enough to have a static Responsive website design that only looks good on a desktop screen.

Not to mention, you should also consider tablets, laptops, and different smartphone models with different screen dimensions when creating a layout.

Therefore, including your content in a single column and leaving it is not going to be enough.

With responsive web design, you can make sure your website looks its best on cell phones, tablets, laptops, and desktop screens.

And that improved user experience means higher conversions and business growth.

This guide will give you everything you need to know about responsive website design, including definitions, a step-by-step tutorial, examples, and more.

What is responsive web design?

Responsive design is an approach to web design that makes your web content adapt to the different screen and window sizes of a variety of devices.

Responsive design is an approach to web design that makes your web content adapt to the different screen and window sizes of a variety of devices.

For example, your content may be separated into different columns on desktop screens, because they are wide enough to fit that layout.

If you separate your content into multiple columns on a mobile device, it will be difficult for users to read and interact with it.

The responsive layout makes it possible to deliver multiple separate layouts of your content and layout to different devices based on screen size.

Responsive web design vs adaptive design

The difference between responsive layout and responsive layout is that responsive layout adapts the rendering of a single page version. By contrast, the adaptive layout offers multiple completely different versions of the same page.

The difference between responsive layout and responsive layout is that responsive layout adapts the rendering of a single page version. By contrast, adaptive layout offers multiple completely different versions of the same page.

Both are crucial web design trends that help webmasters control how their site looks on different screens, but the approach is different.

With a responsive layout, users will access the same basic file through their browser regardless of device, but the CSS code will control the layout and render it differently based on screen size. With adaptive design, there is a script that checks the screen size and then accesses the template designed for that device.


Why Responsive Design Matters

If you’re new to web design, development, or blogging, you might be wondering why responsive design is important in the first place.

The answer is simple. It is no longer enough to design for a single device. Mobile web traffic has overtaken desktop traffic and now accounts for the majority of web traffic, accounting for more than 51%.

When more than half of your potential visitors use a mobile device to browse the Internet, you can’t just show them a page designed for desktop computers. It would be difficult to read and use, and it would lead to a bad user experience.

But that is not all. Mobile device users also make up the majority of search engine visits.

Finally, in recent years, mobile has become one of the most important advertising channels. Even in a post-pandemic market, mobile ad spending is growing 4.8% to $ 91.52 billion.

Whether you choose to advertise on social media or use an organic approach like YouTube SEO, the vast majority of your traffic will come from mobile users.

If your landing pages aren’t mobile-friendly and easy to use, you won’t be able to maximize the ROI from your marketing efforts. Poor conversion rates will lead to fewer leads and wasted ad spend.

Are WordPress sites responsive?

Whether or not WordPress sites are responsive depends on your WP site theme. A WordPress theme is the equivalent of a template for a static website and controls the design and layout of your content.

If you use a default WordPress theme, like Twenty Twenty, the layout is responsive, but since it’s a single column layout, you might not notice it when looking at it across different screens.

If you use another WordPress theme, you can test whether or not it is responsive by comparing how it looks on different devices or using Chrome Developer Tools.

The building blocks of responsive web design

In this section, we will cover the underlying foundation for responsive website design and its different building blocks.


Media Questions

Fluid designs

Flexible box design

Responsive images



The basis of responsive design is the combination of HTML and CSS, two languages ​​that control the content and layout of a page in any web browser.

HTML primarily controls the structure, elements, and content of a web page. For example, to add an image to a website, you would use HTML code like this:

<img src = “image.gif” alt = “image” class = ”full width img”>

You can set a “class” or “id” that you can then point to with CSS code.

You can also control primary attributes like height and width within your HTML, but this is no longer considered a best practice.

Instead, CSS is used to edit the layout and layout of the elements you include on a page with HTML. CSS code can be included in a <style> section of an HTML document or as a separate style sheet file.

For example, we could edit the width of all HTML images at the element level like this:

img {

width: 100%;


Or we could target the specific class “full-width-img” by adding a period in front.

full-width-img {

width: 100%;


You can also control the layout beyond height, width, and color. Using CSS like this is how you make a layout responsive when you combine it with a technique called media query.

Media Queries

A media query is a fundamental part of CSS3 that allows you to render content to accommodate different factors such as screen size or resolution.

It works similar to an “if clause” in some programming languages, basically checking to see if a screen’s viewing window is wide enough or too wide before executing the appropriate code.

@media screen y (minimum width: 780px) {

.full-width-img {

margin: automatic;

width: 90%;


If the screen is at least 780 pixels wide, “full-width image” class images will occupy 90% of the screen and will be automatically centered with equally wide margins.

Fluid designs

A fluid layout is an essential part of modern responsive design. In the old days, you set a static value for each HTML element, like 600 pixels.

A fluid layout is an essential part of modern responsive design. In the old days, you set a static value for each HTML element, like 600 pixels.

A fluid layout is instead based on dynamic values ​​as a percentage of the width of the viewport.

This approach will dynamically increase or decrease different container item sizes based on screen size.

Flexible box design

While a percentage-based design is fluid, many web designers and developers felt that it was not dynamic or flexible enough. Flexbox is a CSS module designed as a more efficient way to layout multiple elements, even when the size of the content within the container is unknown.

A flexible container expands items to fill available free space or shrinks them to prevent overflow. These flex containers have a number of unique properties, such as content justification, that you cannot edit with a normal HTML element.


When trying to create a responsive design for your website, the loading speed should be a priority.

Pages that load in 2 seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%, while pages that take 5 seconds have a bounce rate of 38%.

Your approach to responsiveness shouldn’t block or delay the first rendering of your page any longer than necessary.

There are several ways to make your pages faster. Optimizing your images, implementing caching, minification, using a more efficient CSS layout, avoiding rendering-blocking JS, and improving your critical render path are all great ideas to consider.

You can also try implementing Google AMP for your mobile pages, but in our Google AMP case study, our mobile leads were down 59%.

Common response breakpoints

To work with media queries, you must decide on “response breakpoints” or screen size breakpoints. A breakpoint is the width of the screen where you use a media query to implement new CSS styles.

Common screen sizes

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 laptop or desktop: 1920 x 1080

If you choose a mobile-centric design approach, with a single column and smaller font sizes as your foundation, you don’t need to include mobile breakpoints unless you want to optimize your layout for specific models.

So you can create a basic responsive layout with just two breakpoints, one for tablets and one for laptops and desktops.

Bootstrap Responsive Breakpoints

As one of the earliest and most popular responsive frameworks, Bootstrap led the assault on static web design and helped establish mobile-first design as an industry standard.

As a result, many designers to this day still follow Bootstrap’s screen width breakpoints.

How to make your website responsive?

Now that you are familiar with the basic components, it is time to make your website responsive.

Set your media query ranges (response breakpoints)

Resize design elements with percentages or create a CSS grid layout

Deploy responsive images

Responsive typography for your website text

Responsiveness test

Set your media query ranges (response breakpoints)

Set your media query ranges based on the unique needs of your design. For example, if we wanted to follow Bootstrap standards for our design, we would use the following media queries:

576px for portrait phones

768px for tablets

992px for laptops

1200px for large devices

Resize design elements with percentages or create a CSS grid layout

The first and most important step is to set different sizes for different design elements based on media query or screen breakpoint.

The number of layout containers you have will depend on the layout, but most websites focus on the items listed below:

Wrapper or container





With a mobile-centric approach, you can design your core design elements like this (without media query for basic mobile phone styles):

Deploy responsive images

One way to make sure your images don’t break is to simply use a dynamic value for all images, as we covered above.

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img {

width: 100%;


But that won’t reduce the burden your mobile visitors get when they access your website.

Make sure to always include a srcset that has different sizes of your photo when adding images to your pages.

Doing this manually can be time-consuming, but with a CMS like WordPress, it happens automatically when you upload media files.

Responsive typography for your website text

The main focus of responsive web design is the responsiveness of design blocks, elements, and media. Text is often treated as an afterthought.

But for a truly responsive design, you also need to adjust the font sizes appropriately to match the screen size.

Responsive design examples

Below we will cover some examples of responsive web design from different industries, and learn from what they do right and wrong.

1.Online newspaper: New York Times

responsive nyt design

NYT on mobile devices, tablets, and laptops

On the desk, the layout of the NYT reminds you of a traditional newspaper, packed with pictures and different rows and columns of content. There seems to be a separate column or row for each news category.

On mobile devices, it conforms to the single column standard and also adjusts the menu to be in accordion format for easier use.

2.Blog: The art of nonconformity

Chris Guillebeau responsive design 2

The art of nonconformity on mobile devices, tablets, and laptops

Chris Guillebeau’s blog “The Art of Nonconformity” has been going strong for more than a decade. While the layout is not the most innovative, it is responsive and adapts the two-column sidebar and main content layout to a single-column layout on mobile devices.

3.E-commerce: Amazon

Responsive design from amazon 1

Amazon on mobile devices, tablets, and laptops

Amazon is a world leader in e-commerce for a reason, its user interface is seamless on all devices.

Its tablet design simply removes some of the white space and adds a scrollable icon section to fit more content into a smaller package.

Its mobile layout brings it together in a single column, focusing on the essentials, like recent purchase history, rather than the different section link icons on your main home page.


There are many different elements that go into responsive web design. Without a basic understanding of HTML and CSS, it’s easy to make mistakes.

But by getting familiar with the different building blocks, parsing through the examples with web development tools, and testing as you go using the sample code, you should be able to make your website responsive without any major issues.

If that sounds too much to accomplish, you can always hire a WordPress developer.

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