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Now more than ever, were designing work meant to be viewed along a gradient of different experiences. Responsive web design offers us a way forward, finally allowing us to design for the ebb and flow of things. Get our latest articles in your inbox. Sign up for email alerts. Contribute to readWriteThink / fAQs site demonstrations contact Us pause Play more, lessons, interactives, calendar activities, and more, right at your fingertips. Grades, k - 12, student Interactive   Writing publishing Prose.

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And while microsoft has committed to media query support in IE9, internet Explorer currently doesnt offer a native implementation. However, if youre interested in implementing legacy browser support for media queries, theres a javascript-tinted silver lining: A jQuery plugin from 2007 offers somewhat limited media query support, implementing only the min-width and max-width media properties when attached to separate link elements. Js was released, a library that promises to make ie 5, firefox 1 and Safari 2 transparently parse, test, and apply css3 Media queries when included via @media blocks. While very much.0 release, ive personally found it to be quite robust, and I plan to watch its development. But if using javascript doesnt appeal, thats perfectly understandable. However, that strengthens the case for building your layout atop a flexible grid, ensuring your design enjoys some measure of flexibility in media query-blind browsers and devices. The letter way forward Fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries are the three technical ingredients for responsive web design, but it also requires a different way of thinking. Rather than quarantining our content into disparate, device-specific experiences, we can use media queries to progressively enhance our work within different viewing contexts. Thats not to say there isnt a business case for separate sites geared toward specific devices; for example, if the user goals for your mobile site are more limited in scope than its desktop equivalent, then serving different content to each might be the best. But that kind of design thinking doesnt need to be our default.

But this is only the bill beginning. Working from the media queries weve embedded in our css, we can alter much more than the placement of a few images: we can introduce new, alternate layouts tuned to each resolution range, perhaps making the navigation more prominent in a widescreen view, or repositioning. By designing responsively, we can not only linearize our content on smaller devices, but also optimize its presentation across a range of displays. But a responsive design isnt limited to layout changes. Media queries allow us to practice some incredibly precise fine-tuning as our pages reshape themselves: we can increase the target area on links for smaller screens, better complying with Fitts Law on touch devices; selectively show or hide elements that might enhance a pages navigation;. A few technical notes It should be noted that media queries enjoy incredibly robust support among modern browsers. Desktop browsers such as Safari 3, Chrome, firefox.5, and Opera 7 all natively parse media queries, as do more recent mobile browsers such as Opera mobile and mobile webKit. Of course, older versions of those desktop browsers dont support media queries.

design writing online

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Figure, lif-mycroft margin-right:. ; 21px / 633px width:. ; 306px / 633px lif-watson, lif-moriarty margin-right: 0; our figures can responsively change their layout to better suit smaller displays. Dont mind the unsightly percentages; were simply recalculating the widths of the fluid grid to account for the newly linearized layout. In short, were moving from a three-column layout to a two-column layout when the viewports width falls below 400px, making the images more prominent. We can actually take the same approach for widescreen displays, too. For larger resolutions, we could adopt a six-across treatment for our images, placing them all in the same row : @media screen and (min-width: 1300px). ; 88px / 633px now our images are working beautifully at both ends of the resolution spectrum, optimizing their layout to changes in window widths and device resolution alike. By specifying a wider min-width in a new media query, we can shift our images into a single row layout.

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Media queries are, in short, conditional comments for the rest. Rather than targeting a specific version of a specific browser, we can game surgically correct issues in our layout as it scales beyond its initial, ideal resolution. Adapt, respond, and overcome lets turn our attention to the images at the base of our page. In their default layout, the relevant css currently looks like this:.figure float: left; margin:.5em 0; 21px / 633px width:. ; 197px / 633px lif-mycroft, lif-winter margin-right: 0; ive omitted a number of typographic properties to focus on the layout: Each. Figure element is sized at roughly one third of the containing column, with the right-hand margin zeroed out for the two pictures at the end of each row (lif-mycroft, lif-winter). And this works fairly well, until the viewport is either noticeably smaller or wider than our original design.

With media queries, we can apply resolution-specific spotfixes, adapting our design to better respond to changes in the display. First of all, lets linearize our page once the viewport falls below a certain resolution threshold—say, 600px. So at the bottom of our style sheet, lets create a new @media block, like so: @media screen and (max-width: 600px). Footer float: none; width: auto; if you view our updated page in a modern desktop browser and reduce the size of your window below 600px, the media query will disable the floats on the designs major elements, stacking each block atop each other in the. So our miniaturized design is shaping up nicely, but the images still dont scale down that intelligently. If we introduce another media query, we can alter their layout accordingly: @media screen and (max-width: 400px).

Thankfully, the W3C created media queries as part of the css3 specification, improving upon the promise of media types. A media query allows us to target not only certain device classes, but to actually inspect the physical characteristics of the device rendering our work. For example, following the recent rise of mobile webKit, media queries became a popular client-side technique for delivering a tailored style sheet to the iphone, android phones, and their ilk. To do so, we could incorporate a query into a linked style sheets media attribute: link rel"stylesheet" type"text/css" media"screen and (max-device-width: 480px href"s" / The query contains two components: a media type (screen and the actual query enclosed within parentheses, containing a particular media feature. In plain English, were asking the device if its horizontal resolution (max-device-width) is equal to or less than 480px.

If the test passes—in other words, if were viewing our work on a small-screen device like the iphone—then the device will load. Otherwise, the link is ignored altogether. Designers have experimented with resolution-aware layouts in the past, mostly relying on js-driven solutions like cameron Adams excellent script. But the media query specification provides a host of media features that extends far beyond screen resolution, vastly widening the scope of what we can test for with our queries. Whats more, you can test multiple property values in a single query by chaining them together with the and keyword: link rel"stylesheet" type"text/css" media"screen and (max-device-width: 480px) and (resolution: 163dpi href"s" / furthermore, were not limited to incorporating media queries in our links. We can include them in our css either as part of a @media rule: @media screen and (max-device-width: 480px). Column float: none; or as part of an @import directive: @import url s screen and (max-device-width: 480px but in each case, the effect is the same: If the device passes the test put forth by our media query, the relevant css is applied to our.

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In their book interactive architecture, michael Fox and Miles Kemp described this more adaptive approach as a british multiple-loop system in which one enters into a conversation; a continual and constructive information exchange. Emphasis mine, as I think thats a subtle yet powerful distinction: rather than creating immutable, unchanging spaces that define a particular experience, they suggest inhabitant and structure can—and should—mutually influence each other. This is our way forward. Rather than tailoring disconnected designs to each of an ever-increasing number of web devices, we can treat them as facets of the same experience. We can design for an optimal viewing experience, but embed standards-based technologies into our designs to make them not only more flexible, but more adaptive to the media that renders them. In short, we need to practice responsive web design. Meet the media query, since the days of css.1, our style sheets have enjoyed some measure of device awareness through media types. If youve ever written a print style sheet, youre already familiar with the concept: link rel"stylesheet" type"text/css" href"s" media"screen" / link rel"stylesheet" type"text/css" href"s" media"print" / In the hopes that wed be designing more than neatly formatted page printouts, the css specification supplied us with. But most browsers and devices never really embraced the spirit of the specification, leaving many media types implemented imperfectly, or altogether ignored.

design writing online

The example design scales perfectly well as the browser window resizes, but stress points quickly party appear at lower resolutions. When viewed at viewport smaller than 800600, the illustration behind the logo quickly becomes cropped, navigation text can wrap in an unseemly manner, and the images along the bottom become too compact to appear legible. And its not just the lower end of the resolution spectrum thats affected: when viewing the design on a widescreen display, the images quickly grow to unwieldy sizes, crowding out the surrounding context. In short, our flexible design works well enough in the desktop-centric context for which it was designed, but isnt optimized to extend far beyond that. Recently, an emergent discipline called responsive architecture has begun asking how physical spaces can respond to the presence of people passing through them. Through a combination of embedded robotics and tensile materials, architects are experimenting with art installations and wall structures that bend, flex, and expand as crowds approach them. Motion sensors can be paired with climate control systems to adjust a rooms temperature and ambient lighting as it fills with people. Companies have already produced smart glass technology that can automatically become opaque when a rooms occupants reach a certain density threshold, giving them an additional layer of privacy.

an example design. Ive built a simple page for a hypothetical magazine; its a straightforward two-column layout built on a fluid grid, with not a few flexible images peppered throughout. As a long-time proponent of non-fixed layouts, ive long felt they were more future proof simply because they were layout agnostic. And to a certain extent, thats true: flexible designs make no assumptions about a browser windows width, and adapt beautifully to devices that have portrait and landscape modes. Huge images are huge. Our layout, flexible though it is, doesnt respond well to changes in resolution or viewport size. But no design, fixed or fluid, scales seamlessly beyond the context for which it was originally intended.

But the landscape is shifting, perhaps more quickly than we might like. Mobile browsing is expected to outpace desktop-based access within three to five years. Two of the three dominant video game consoles have web browsers (and one of them is quite excellent). Were designing for mice and keyboards, for T9 keypads, for handheld game controllers, for touch interfaces. In short, were resume faced with a greater number of devices, input modes, and browsers than ever before. In recent years, ive been meeting with more companies that request an iPhone website as part of their project. Its an interesting phrase: At face value, of course, it speaks to mobile webKits quality as a browser, as well as a powerful business case for thinking beyond the desktop. But as designers, i think we often take comfort in such explicit requirements, as they allow us to compartmentalize the problems before. We can quarantine the mobile experience on separate subdomains, spaces distinct and separate from the non-iPhone website.

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The English architect Christopher Wren once quipped that his chosen field aims for Eternity, and theres something appealing about that formula: Unlike the web, which often feels like aiming for next week, architecture is a literature discipline very much defined by its permanence. Article continues Below, a buildings foundation defines its footprint, which defines its frame, which shapes the facade. Each phase of the architectural process is more immutable, more unchanging than the last. Creative decisions quite literally shape a physical space, defining the way in which people move through its confines for decades or even centuries. Working on the web, however, is a wholly different matter. Our work is defined by its transience, often refined or replaced within a year or two. Inconsistent window widths, screen resolutions, user preferences, and our users installed fonts are but a few of the intangibles we negotiate when we publish our work, and over the years, weve become incredibly adept at doing.

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  3. Designers have coveted print for its precision layouts, lamenting the varying user contexts on the web that compromise their designs. Ethan Marcotte advocates we shift our design thinking to appropriate these constraints: using fluid grids, flexible images, and media queries, he shows us how to embrace the ebb and flow of things 8221.

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