How To Use CSS Breakpoints For Responsive Design

Posted by Nimritee | July 20, 2021
Web Development •

135849 Views | 11 Min Read

CSS Breakpoints For Responsive Design

Today’s potential customers are smart, sophisticated, and time-starved and they want their requirements to be addressed instantly. Therefore, an ultimate user experience is crucial to the success and survival of organizations that aim to enhance their user’s engagement. The goal would be to convert these visitors into customers which would eventually add to the revenue of the organization.

An ideal online user journey includes a website (or app) that inculcates the essentials of responsive web design, thereby providing an exceptional experience across different device viewports (or screen sizes). Importance should be given to smooth navigation, dynamic and readable content, and other aspects that make up a responsive web design. With a plethora of different devices available in the market, providing a seamless user experience across all device viewport sizes might be challenging. This is where CSS breakpoints can play an instrumental role in realizing responsive design for websites (and web applications).

CSS breakpoints are quite useful for creating a responsive web design, as it offers an awesome user experience on different screen sizes. This is realized by splitting the design into a smaller version(s) of the website based on the device’s screen size.

Responsive Design

Source

In this blog, we deep dive into CSS breakpoints and how it can be used to build responsive designs. The end result – website (or web app) with a top-notch user experience across different device viewports.

Let’s get started!

What Are CSS Breakpoints?

CSS breakpoints are the points added in the code, the website content responds to these points depending on the device screen size. This helps in displaying an ideal layout to the end-user. CSS breakpoints are used along with media query due to which it is also known as CSS media query breakpoints.

In other terms, CSS media query breakpoints are the pixel values that a developer can specify in the CSS code. An adjustment is made to give a pleasant user experience when a responsive website encounters such pixel values.

Read: How To Use CSS Media Queries For Responsive Design?

Let’s view the LambdaTest website on different device viewports to understand the basic essentials of CSS breakpoints.

Desktop View

When we view the website on a simple desktop screen, the entire navigation menu is visible at the top of the page.

Desktop View

Mobile View

When the same website is viewed on a mobile device, the navigation bar appears like a hamburger menu on the top right corner of the screen. This is because the website is viewed on a device with a smaller display size.

Mobile View

How To Set A CSS Breakpoint?

The most challenging part is to select the CSS media query breakpoints. There are no standard rules or syntax since different frameworks use different breakpoints.

Here are the two approaches to apply CSS breakpoints:

  1. Device-based breakpoints
  2. Content-based breakpoints

Device-Based Breakpoints

CSS media query breakpoints can be selected based on the device on which the website is being rendered. However, this is not a preferred approach since new devices are released frequently, and keeping up with new ones requires substantial effort.

Moreover, when a new device launches in the market, developers need to add a new breakpoint to the newly launched screen resolution. Applying the same breakpoint repeatedly to every device can turn out to be a cumbersome activity.

responsive

Depending on your website’s intent and the target audience, you can cover at least all the popular devices and subsequently apply breakpoints to them. As per a survey, close to 50 percent of web traffic originates from mobile devices. Therefore mobile first web design has become an absolute necessity in today’s time where mobile devices have become an indispensable part of our lives!

Read: Why Is Responsive Web Design Important?

Here are examples of a few device-specific CSS media query breakpoints.

CSS media query breakpoints

For iPhone 12 Mini

For iPhone 12, 12 Pro

For iPhone 11

For OnePlus 6

You can also set the breakpoints for common device groups instead of specific devices.

Content-Based Breakpoints

Instead of using device-based breakpoints, it’s better to use the website content for covering more scenarios in order to apply CSS media query breakpoints. In this approach, we simply set a breakpoint at each point where the content layout is misaligned. This method greatly simplifies the implementation along with easing the management of media queries.

As shown in the below example, on minimizing the screen size; the content begins to distort which in turn hampers the readability. To avoid this scenario, we insert CSS media query breakpoints to improve the readability aspects of the content.

Content-Based Breakpoints

Here are the content-based breakpoints for different screen sizes.

For Resolutions 768px And Above

For Resolutions Between 768px And 960px

Note: We can also set a range with breakpoints, hence the CSS will only be applied to those specific ranges.

Using min-width And max-width For CSS Breakpoints

You can add CSS breakpoints using min-width, max-width, or even a combination of both.
When designing the layout with a mobile-first approach in mind, it is recommended to use min-width breakpoints. By default, we would be setting the styles for small screen devices and later add & adjust for bigger screens.

Likewise, if we are designing our layout for large-screen devices, we should use max-width breakpoints. By default, we would be setting the styles for big-screen devices and later add & adjust for smaller screens.

Should You Use Pixels, Ems, Or Percentages In Breakpoints?

When defining things such as margins, padding, and font sizes, we mostly use pixels, but they are absolute units which means that they are not affected by any other factor in CSS.

In comparison, the relative units ems and percentages get their final size based on multiple factors like the parent element’s font size or the root font size in the browser. As a result, using ems or percentages will significantly reduce the need for media-query-specific classes and make the website more responsive and easier to manage.

What Breakpoints Should You Use?

We need not create multiple CSS media query breakpoints for every device width. This approach was used earlier for creating a responsive website when there were fewer devices in the market.

With many devices rolling out, it’s impractical to cover all the new devices for applying CSS breakpoints. Rather, try to choose breakpoints based on the web design and target devices that are extensively used by the audience in the target markets.

Some common breakpoints for devices with different screen sizes are:

  • 320px — 480px: Mobile devices
  • 481px — 768px: iPads, Tablets
  • 769px — 1024px: Small screens, laptops
  • 1025px — 1200px: Desktops, large screens
  • 1201px and more —  Extra large screens, TV

Using the CSS breakpoints mentioned above, you can create a simplified and manageable responsive website.

Also Read: The Ultimate Guide To Building A Mobile Friendly Website

For example, consider the LambdaTest website; the automation testing page has two content boxes aligned horizontally when viewed on a desktop. The same is piled to one column on mobile and tablet devices.

CSS media query

Mobile design with one column

Beginning with mobile widths and scaling up, selecting the viewport width at which we want the design to change to two columns. So, how do you test the responsiveness of your website on different devices and viewports? This is where LT Browser – a free-to-use mobile-friendly test tool for responsive test, can be leveraged for ensuring that your website (or web app) scores well on all the aspects related to website’s responsiveness.

https://www.lambdatest.com/mobile-friendly-tester

Desktop design with two columns

We can start with 3 to 4 breakpoints covering all screen sizes; from small screens to big screens; and set the breakpoints at 42em, 60em, and 81em. The mobile phones will fall under the 768px category, and tablets will approximately fall above 768px. So basically, all the small screen devices mostly fall between 480px to 1024px whereas the large screen devices will fall above 1201px.

This method lets you incorporate all devices within these ranges of viewport widths.

CSS Breakpoints For Responsive Design

Operating with a small range of breakpoints will help us maintain the responsiveness of the styles in a consistent manner.

Best Practices For Adding CSS Breakpoints For Responsive Web Design

  1. Use minify HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to improve page load time by optimizing your code (including deleting spaces, commas, and other redundant characters).
  2. Designing for the smaller screen (mobile phones) is more complicated than the larger screens (desktops). Hence, it is better to set the priorities right from the word go!
  3. It is easier to simplify the mobile view of a website in comparison to its desktop view. When a design is being prepared, a mobile view of the website should be kept in mind. Designers first address the most important objects and then make few additions for the desktop view.
  4. The amount of implementation decreases significantly since the block-level elements (e.g. heading, div, or section) will directly expand to 100%. Therefore, most of the content will automatically fit into the mobile view of the website.
  5. Designers and developers must prioritize the features based on the type and form factor of the mobile device. For example, prioritization has to be made between voice commands and keyboard/touchpad commands.

Using LT Browser To Test Mobile View Of Website

It’s important to develop a mobile website that functions seamlessly across all devices, screen sizes, and resolutions. However, developers must bear in mind that 55% of all web traffic came through mobile phones. Therefore, after incorporating CSS breakpoints in your websites, you need to test mobile view of website to ensure that your websites are well-optimized to run on different mobile device viewports.

Read More: How To Get Started With Mobile Website Testing In 2021?

LT Browser – a mobile friendly checker tool that allows you to test mobile view of website across multiple device viewports, including mobiles, tablets, desktops, and laptops. LT Browser comes with numerous features for developers to perform mobile testing and make their entire web dev process even smoother.

DOWNLOAD LT BROWSER Download LT Browser

Some of the amazing features that LT Browser offers are:

  1. Provide a wide range of 50+ pre-installed device viewports to test on.
  2. Get Google lighthouse performance reports of websites. Based on the performance metrics, you can create a mobile-optimized web experience for the users.
  3. Network throttling feature to test websites on various network conditions.
  4. Sync Devices feature to test on multiple device viewports simultaneously.
  5. Mouse pointer to mimic the real device touch behavior on the viewports.

To delve deeper into the features of LT Browser, read our blog on the best features of LT Browser – a browser for developers!

You can also go through our LT Browser tutorial to easily kick start your mobile web testing.

Wrapping Up

Adding correct CSS responsive breakpoints takes immense time and effort. Therefore after implementing CSS media query breakpoints, it is essential to perform responsive testing websites to check how your website looks and behaves across various screen sizes. In addition, you can keep a web design checklist in hand while developing websites with CSS breakpoints.

Source

In this post, we have learned how to use CSS breakpoints for responsive design to help developers reduce their pain points while debugging a website. Along with responsive testing, you can also leverage LambdaTest – a cross browser testing platform to test the browser compatibility of websites with CSS breakpoints across 2000+ real browsers and operating systems online.

If you’ve your own experience with CSS breakpoints, please share them in the comment section below.

Happy Designing!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the types of CSS breakpoints?

CSS breakpoints are of two types – device-based and content-based breakpoints. In device-based breakpoints you can select media query breakpoints based on the device on which the website is being rendered whereas in content-based breakpoints you can select the CSS media query breakpoints based on website’s content.

What are common breakpoints?

Common breakpoints are 320px — 480px for mobile devices, 481px — 768px for iPads & tablets, 769px — 1024px for small screens like laptop, 1025px — 1200px for large screens like Desktops, and 1201px and above for extra large screens like TV.

What are media query breakpoints?

You can view every website on a variety of devices with various screen sizes and resolutions. The website’s content responds to these points and adapts itself to the screen size to display an ideal layout. CSS breakpoints are implemented with media queries therefore they are also know as media query breakpoints.

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