HTML is a very fluid medium for web development. This wonderful Technology can expand text and containers both horizontally and vertically to use the available space. However, due to this fluid mechanism, it became even more difficult to create complex web designs. Therefore, many sites adopted a fixed width based on popular screen sizes. This adaptation did not have any specific impact on the screen size evolution. For instance, the standard screen size continued to evolve from 800×600 to 1024×768. However, the evolution of smartphones and the rise of the iPhone in the year 2007 hurt this trend. In the present generation, more than half of the population access the internet on a mobile device.
Technically speaking, smartphones often have a higher resolution than most monitors or desktops. For example, an iPhone 11 pro max translates its initial 2688×1242 resolution to a realistic 896×414 resolution. This logical pixel can form a grid of 3×3 real pixels. This entire process provides smooth fonts and increased image detail on all mobile devices. During the initial years of software development, companies created separate websites for desktop and mobile users. They also used features like user widget sniffing to provide smoother redirecting. However, this initial approach became impractical as the variety of devices began rising exponentially.
The companies were desperate to find new measures to cope up with the modern browsing standards. Finally, Ethan Marcotte devised Responsive Web Design in 2010. This wonderful Technology allowed the same website to function on various devices irrespective of screen size or viewport dimensions.
The Working Mechanism for RWD
Before discussing the working mechanism for responsive web design, it is important to understand that there is no single RWD approach for technology. Initially, the developers need to determine how a website design will react according to the variable screen display. This is one of the largest challenges of creating a responsive web design. Common initial approaches include taking an existing desktop layout and removing sections as screen dimensions begin to reduce. Another refined approach is to consider the ‘mobile first’ principle. The primary concept of this design is, to begin with, the linear mobile view that works on all devices. Then, the system will adopt the content as more spaces and supported browser features become available.
Many websites have transformed into a simple layout in recent years where the mobile and desktop experiences remain mostly similar. To understand the working mechanism of responsive web design, we can consider the example of a hamburger menu. People with a smaller screen can click on an icon to view the navigation link. On the other hand, people with large displays can have the option to view the entire horizontal list. This is an excellent example to understand the adaptive mechanism of responsive web designs.
Viewport: An HTML Meta Tag
One of the modern developers’ prime misconceptions is that a responsive web design completely ditches the ideologies of primitive web design. In reality, there are certain elements that a developer must include in a responsive web design irrespective of modern technology. For instance, developers must specify the viewport in the HTML <head> of the RWD. The “width=device-width” allows the mobile browser to scale all the elements on the web page according to the CSS pixels of the screen width. Without this meta tag, the mobile browser will assume it is rendering a desktop side and scale it accordingly. This process will bring various unwanted features like scanning and zooming ability on a small display.
Meta Queries for Web Designing
The first responsive web design websites had their primary base on media queries. Media queries allowed CSS to target specific ranges of viewport dimensions for a better viewing experience. Even with the advancement in responsive web designing, media queries are still used on certain websites. Their use has become an explicit option in the present software development industry. This means that developers have the option to either include them in the core framework or avoid them altogether.
CSS Flexbox and Grid for laying Child Elements
The CSS flex board and CSS grid allow modern technologies to lay child elements depending on the content and the available space. Let us take a quick look at the primary differences between these two elements for responsive web designing:
- Flexbox is highly useful for creating one-dimensional layouts. With this feature, all the elements on the web page can wrap to the next line to prevent the columns from lining up.
- The primary function of the grid is to create a two-dimensional layout for RWD web design. This function also allows developers to include identifiable rows and columns on the web page.
So, a company can use either of these functions to create an intrinsic layout for the webpage. Both of these functions help to size all the elements on the web page according to the viewport dimensions, thus, the developers do not have to bother about media queries.
Support for Various Browsers
Browser support is a vital factor in ensuring the web page is accessible on that particular Browser. For instance, the CSS Grid is supported by almost 95% of browsers that are available in the present market. However, the developers should not take browser support for granted. All companies must perform rigorous mobile web tests over various devices, resolutions, and browsers. This process ensures that the company can provide the best end-user experience to the customers.
Now, let us take a quick look at some of the common ways to ensure cross-browser compatibility for responsive websites:
- In-Browser Testing for Various Websites
Resizing the browser window is considered to be one of the most reasonable approaches for a few hours. However, with time, this strategy becomes inaccurate and cumbersome. Most modern browsers have a special responsive design mode that allows selecting a device and user agent. Then, the developer can rotate the device and choose a resolution according to the pixel density, throttle bandwidth, emulate the touch and take multiple screenshots. The developer must remember every browser has its unique way of expressing the design mod and its own set of commands.
For the Safari browser, the developers must enable the developer menu from the menu bar. The menu bar will be available in the advanced tab of the web browser preferences. After this, the developers can easily enter the responsive design mode from the develop menu. The developer must remember that these tools can only imitate the possible screen dimensions and user agents. So, you cannot accurately test the following factors:
- The Rendering capabilities of the Device
- Various functionality issues on older devices
- The functioning on High-Density Displays
- Factors such as Touch and Processing Speed
- Emulators for Mobile OS
With the advancement of technology, companies do not have to buy real devices to perform extensive testing of web devices. Instead, they can simply run an Android or iOS virtual machine on the desktop. These emulators allow the developers to install and run real mobile browsers while using original rendering engines. Various Android emulators provide cloud support to ensure that the developers can run tests on multiple devices at the same time. These emulators also allow the testers to test the functionality of the locally hosted web applications.
In the present software development industry, there are thousands of Android emulators that are available in the market. Let us look at some of the popular Android emulators used by various companies:
- The Android Studio
- Xamarin- Visual Studio
- The Bliss OS
- Phoenix OS
Most of the time, Chrome is the obvious browser choice for Android devices. However, you must also consider Opera Mini as it is a prominent Browser on all low-power feature phones.
- Various Online Testing Services
Currently, several online services allow developers to test responsive web pages for mobile browsers with the help of the internet. This process includes renting time on a real device and viewing its screen on the developer’s Browser. The major advantage of this process is that there is no software to set up or maintain in the entire testing life cycle. Some of the common services offered by these platforms are automated test APIs which allow you to run automated test scripts. These test cycles can find critical errors like styling regressions or broken user interfaces.
Various tools also help developers to test the cross-browser compatibility of responsive web designs. These tools offer various features such as live web testing from the browser itself. For instance, LT Browser allows the developers to test the functioning of the application on more than 5o devices at the same time. This tool also helps the developers to create custom devices according to the project requirements. Some of the popular online platforms for web testing include:
- Sauce Labs
- CrossBrowser Testing
- Options for Real-Time Testing
Finally, we all can agree that there is no substitute for performing tests on real devices. It is the best way to get accurate data regarding speed, touch control, and the site’s responsive web design. Theoretically speaking, the developers can test as many devices as possible. However, they must remember that their device can ever be the parameter for average user hardware. To get an idea about the device commonly used by an average customer, developers must consider mobile phones that are at least a year or two old. All the devices connected to the same network can access the PC server by entering the IP address in the browser. The developers can also connect the smartphone to the PC with the help of a USB cable.
The Final Verdict
In simple terms responsive web design technologies allow companies to create a single website that can be viewed by anyone on any device. These web pages are devoid of technical limitations or any form of boundaries. The developers must remember that creating a responsive web design and making it user-friendly is not the same thing. However, with the advancement of technology, the range and capabilities of testing tools will continue to improve. So, companies must utilize every possible way to provide the best browsing experience to their customers.