In responsive design we generally want a single component to get different styles in different contexts. Up until recently the prevailing method of context-awareness was to use a CSS media query to query the viewport size. This wasn’t ideal. For example you might want an component to be styled differently when in a narrow context such as a sidebar (regardless of the device size), and viewport-based queries don’t help with that.
But everything has changed. We can now use CSS to query the size of any given container and this feature is supported in all major browsers.
There’s a bit of new syntax to learn, so I recently had my first play with container queries on codepen.
My pen is pretty trivial, but the goal was specifically to do the most minimal test that lets me test-drive the key syntax. It turns out that it’s quite straightforward.
Define an element as a container:
Change the styles of another element (
.foo) when it’s inside that container and the container’s inline-size (the logical property name for
width) matches a given query:
Note that you could also omit the
ctr-sidebar context in the above query, if you wanted the change to apply in all defined containers.
I’ve started trialling different HTML and technologies for the “simple” responsive images (i.e. not art-directed per breakpoint) used in blog articles on this site. I’m continuing to lean on Cloudinary as my free image host, CDN and format-conversion service. But at the HTML level I’ve moved from a complicated
<img srcset> based approach which included many resized versions of the same image. I now use a simpler
<source> based pattern that keeps the number of images and breakpoints low, leaning instead into the performance gains offered by the newer image formats
Here’s a handy tool from the smart folks at 9elements for making a value – such as a font-size, or margin – fluidly responsive. In their words the tool…
calculates the CSS clamp formula to interpolate between two values in a given viewport range.
At work in our Design System team, we’ve been doing a lot of content and documentation writing for a new reference website. So it was really timely to read Jeremy Keith of Clearleft’s new post on the process of writing Learn Responsive Design for Google’s web.dev resource. The course is great, very digestible and I highly recommend it to all. But I also love this new post’s insight into how Google provided assistance, provided a Content handbook as “house style” for writing on web.dev and managed the process from docs and spreadsheets to Github. I’m sure there will be things my team can learn from that Content Handbook as we go forward with our technical writing.
“Dark mode” has been a buzz-phrase in web development since around 2019. It refers to the ability provided by modern operating systems to set the user interface’s appearance to either light or dark. Web browsers and technologies support this by allowing developers to detect whether or not the OS provides such settings, and if so which mode the user prefers. Developers can create alternate light and dark themes for their websites and switch between these intelligently (responsively?) to fit with the user’s system preference.
I’ve been meaning to do some work on this front for a while and finally got around to it. (You might even be reading this post with your computer’s dark colour scheme enabled and seeing the fruits of my labour.) Here’s how I set things up and the lessons I learned along the way.
Jeremy Keith’s new course for Google’s web.dev learning platform is fantastic and covers a variety of aspects of responsive design including layout (macro and micro), images, icons and typography.
In modern web development there are a myriad ways to present an image on a web page and it can often feel pretty baffling. In this series I step through the options, moving from basic to flexible images; then from modern responsive images to the new CSS for fitting different sized images into a common shape. By the end I’ll arrive at a flexible, modern boilerplate for images.
Here’s how to improve performance and prevent layout jank when browsers load responsive images.
John Allsopp’s classic article in which he looks at the medium of web design through the prism of the Tao Te Ching, and encourages us to embrace the web’s inherent flexibility and fluidity.
It’s time to throw out the rituals of the printed page, and to engage the medium of the web and its own nature.
It’s choc-full of quotable lines, but here are a few of my favourites:
We must “accept the ebb and flow of things.”
Everything I’ve said so far could be summarized as: make pages which are adaptable.
The web’s greatest strength, I believe, is often seen as a limitation, as a defect. It is the nature of the web to be flexible, and it should be our role as designers and developers to embrace this flexibility, and produce pages which, by being flexible, are accessible to all. The journey begins by letting go of control, and becoming flexible.
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