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Home Guide Defining Breakpoints in Responsive Web Design

Defining Breakpoints in Responsive Web Design

Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack -

Table of Contents

Let’s begin with the most obvious question.

What is a breakpoint in responsive design?

In responsive design, a breakpoint is the “point” at which a website’s content and design will adapt in a certain way in order to provide the best possible user experience. For example, when the website of The New Yorker is viewed on a regular desktop screen, the user sees the whole navigation menu on the sidebar. However, if it is viewed on a mobile device screen, the smaller screen size will cause the navigation bar to appear on the top left of the screen as a menu. Check this out on our Responsive Checker.

Essentially, breakpoints are pixel values that a developer/designer can define in CSS. When a responsive website reaches those pixel values, a transformation (such as the one detailed above) occurs so that the website offers an optimal user experience.

  • For developers, a breakpoint is a media query.
  • For designers, it is the juncture at which a change is made to the way the website content or design appears to the viewer.

When should a Responsive Breakpoint be added?

A good rule to follow in this regard is to add a breakpoint when the content looks misaligned.

Visualize a paragraph of text. As the screen gets wider, it starts to become distorted, thus hindering readability. Adding a breakpoint here would prevent this from happening. The point of adding any breakpoint is to make content easy to read. This applies to both increasing and decreasing screen width. Whenever the content becomes harder to read because of changing screen size, add a breakpoint.

Did you know: How to test your website on different screen sizes using Free tools? Find out.

Best Practices for adding Responsive Breakpoints

  • Develop for mobile-first – By developing and designing mobile-first content, the developer and designer receive multiple benefits.
  1. It is more difficult to simplify a desktop experience for mobile screens than it is to expand a mobile view for desktop screens. When a design is mobile-first, developers address what is most necessary, and can then make additions to match the preferences of desktop users.
  2. Since mobile devices are more challenging to design for due to smaller screens, developers and designers will end up making the tough choices at the very beginning. This saves them time later.
  3. The load time of a page is much higher when one starts with CSS and smaller assets.
  4. Developers and designers are compelled to take into account functional differences occurring between different devices. For example, certain devices prioritize voice search while others are more proficient with a keyboard or even a touchpad.
  5. There is less coding involved since block-level elements such as a div, heading or section expands to fill 100% of it’s parent by default. Thus most content will fit a mobile screen automatically.
  • Use the following points to reduce friction:
  1. Prioritize important menu options
  2. Remove anything visually distracting
  3. Remove minor form fields
  4. Highlight the main CTA
  5. Focus on a robust search and filter function.
  6. Always keep major breakpoints in mind. The former usually matches common screen sizes (480px, 768px, 1024px, and 1280px).
  7. Before choosing major breakpoints, use website analytics to discern the most commonly used devices from which your site is accessed. Add breakpoints for those screen sizes first.
  • An intelligent method is to hide or display elements at certain breakpoints. If necessary, switch content or features at breakpoints. For example, consider implementing off-canvas navigation for smaller screens and a typical navigation bar for larger ones.
  • Don’t define standard breakpoints for responsive design on the basis of device size. The primary objective of responsive design breakpoints is to display content in the best possible way. So, let the content be the guide. Add a breakpoint when the content and design requires it.

People also ask: What is the ideal screen size for responsive design? Find out.

While there is no standard for defining responsive breakpoints because of the large number of devices in the market, devices with the following screen sizes have been most commonly used in 2021 across the world:

    • 1920×1080
    • 1366×768
    • 360×640
    • 414×896
    • 1536×864
    • 375×667

How to run responsive tests on real browsers and devices

Once the research is complete, and the responsive website has been built, it needs to be tested. If a website has to be validated as responsive, it must be tested on multiple real browsers and devices. That is the only way to check the success of responsive design in real user conditions.

To do this, use a responsive design checker. Instead of purchasing multiple devices, enter the URL into the checker and monitor what it looks like on different real devices, all online. The checker linked above offers responsive checking on the latest mobile devices such as iPhone X, Galaxy Note 10, iPhone 8 Plus, and more.

On the other hand, you could sign up for free on BrowserStack’s real device cloud. Get instant, on-demand access to 3000+ real browsers and devices. Check how your site’s responsive design renders on the latest devices and browsers so that you leave nothing to chance. Minimize the chances of a visually distorted site by increasing device coverage with ease and efficiency.


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