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My name is Jean-Baptiste Jung and I’m a 29 years old web developer and professional blogger. I was born and raised in Paris, France and I now live in Belgium with my wife and our adorable cat. I first used the internet in 1998, built my first website in 2001 and finally started to work as a professional web developer in 2005. In 2010, I left my job and created my own web development studio. jb is a DZone MVB and is not an employee of DZone and has posted 55 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Using CSS/HTML to Make a Responsive Website in 3 Easy Steps

11.19.2012
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Today, a website must not look good only on a desktop screen, but also on tablets and smartphones. A website is responsive if it is able to adapt to the screen of the client. In this article, I’ll show you how to easily make a website responsive in three easy steps.

1 – The layout

When building a responsive website, or making responsive an existing site, the first element to look at is the layout. When I build responsive websites, I always start by creating a non-responsive layout, fixed at the default size. For example, CatsWhoCode.com default width is 1100px. When I’m pleased with the non-responsive version, I add media queries and slight changes to my code to make the code responsive. It’s way easier to focus on one task at a time.

When you’re done with your non-responsive website, the first thing to do is to paste the following lines within the <head> and </head> tags on your html page. This will set the view on all screens at a 1×1 aspect ratio and remove the default functionality from iPhones and other smartphone browsers which render websites at full-view and allow users to zoom into the layout by pinching.

<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width,initial-scale=1,maximum-scale=1,user-scalable=no">
<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge,chrome=1">
<meta name="HandheldFriendly" content="true">

It’s now time to add some media queries. According to the W3C site, a media query consists of a media type and zero or more expressions that check for the conditions of particular media features. By using media queries, presentations can be tailored to a specific range of output devices without changing the content itself. In other words, media queries allows your website to look good on all kinds of displays, from smartphones to big screens.

Media queries depends of your website layout, so it’s kinda difficult for me to provide you a ready to use code snippet. However, the code below is a good starting point for most websites. In this example, #primary is the main content area, and #secondary the sidebar.

By having a look at the code, you can see that I defined two sizes: The first have a maximum width of 1060px and is optimized for tablet landscape display. #primary occupies 67% of its parent container, and #secondary 30%, plus a 3% left margin.

The second size is designed for tablet portrait and smaller sizes. Due to the small sizes of smartphones screens, I decided to give #primary a 100% width. #secondary also have a 100% width, and will be displayed below #primary.

As I already said, you’ll probably have to adapt this code a bit to fit the specific needs of your website. Paste it on your site .css file.

/* Tablet Landscape */
@media screen and (max-width: 1060px) {
    #primary { width:67%; }
    #secondary { width:30%; margin-left:3%;}  
}

/* Tabled Portrait */
@media screen and (max-width: 768px) {
    #primary { width:100%; }
    #secondary { width:100%; margin:0; border:none; }
}

Once done, let’s see how responsive your layout is. To do so, I use this awesome tool created by Matt Kersley.

2 – Medias

A responsive layout is the first step to a fully responsive website. Now, let’s focus on a very important aspect of a modern website: medias, such as videos or images.

The CSS code below will ensure that your images will never be bigger than their parent container. It’s super simple and it works for most websites. Please note that the max-width directive is not recognized by older browsers such as IE6. In order to work, this code snippet have to be inserted into your CSS stylesheet.

img { max-width: 100%; }

Although the technique above is efficient, sometimes you may need to have more control over images and display a different image according to the client display size.

Here is a technique developed by Nicolas Gallagher. Let’s start with the html:

<img src="image.jpg"
     data-src-600px="image-600px.jpg"
     data-src-800px="image-800px.jpg"
     alt="">

As you can see, we used the data-* attribute to store replacement images urls. Now, let’s use the full power of CSS3 to replace the default image by one of the specified replacement images if the min-device-width condition is matched:

@media (min-device-width:600px) {
    img[data-src-600px] {
        content: attr(data-src-600px, url);
    }
}

@media (min-device-width:800px) {
    img[data-src-800px] {
        content: attr(data-src-800px, url);
    }
}

Impressive, isn’t it? Now let’s have a look to another very important media in today’s websites, videos.

As most websites are using videos from third parties sites such as YouTube or Vimeo, I decided to focus on the elastic video technique by Nick La. This technique allows you to make embedded videos responsive.

The html:

<div class="video-container">
	<iframe src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/6284199?title=0&byline=0&portrait=0" width="800" height="450" frameborder="0"></iframe>
</div>

And now, the CSS:

.video-container {
	position: relative;
	padding-bottom: 56.25%;
	padding-top: 30px;
	height: 0;
	overflow: hidden;
}

.video-container iframe,  
.video-container object,  
.video-container embed {
	position: absolute;
	top: 0;
	left: 0;
	width: 100%;
	height: 100%;
}

Once you applied this code to your website, embedded videos are now responsive.

3 – Typography

The last step of this tutorial is definitely important, but it is often neglected by developers when it comes to responsive websites: Typography.

Until now, most developers (including myself!) used pixels to define font sizes. While pixels are ok when your website has a fixed width, a responsive website should have a responsive font. Indeed, a responsive font size should be related to its parent container width, so it can adapt to the screen of the client.

The CSS3 specification included a new unit named rems. They work almost identically to the em unit, but are relative to the html element, which make them a lot easier to use than ems.

As rems are relative to the html element, don’t forget to reset html font size:

html { font-size:100%; } 

Once done, you can define responsive font sizes as shown below:

@media (min-width: 640px) { body {font-size:1rem;} } 
@media (min-width:960px) { body {font-size:1.2rem;} } 
@media (min-width:1100px) { body {font-size:1.5rem;} } 

Please note that the rem unit is not recognized by older browers, so don’t forget to implement a fallback.  That’s all for today – I hope you enjoyed this tutorial!

Published at DZone with permission of jb j, author and DZone MVB. (source)

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