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Home Guide Breakpoints for Responsive Web Design

Breakpoints for Responsive Web Design

Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack -

Table of Contents

Users today are driven by experiences. Therefore it is essential that your web design is responsive across all devices. With the increasing number of mobile users, one cannot emphasize the importance of responsive design in customer experience. Today, websites are not just a source to communicate the value proposition, but also serves as a criteria based on which your prospects evaluate you.

Now that you understand what a responsive design is, let us dive deeper to understand the concept of breakpoints and the popular breakpoints in a responsive design.

What is a Breakpoint in Responsive Design?

A breakpoint in a responsive design 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 common breaking point is a media query.
  • For designers, a common breaking point is the juncture at which a change is made to the way the website content or design appears to the viewer.

Choosing an approach to add a breakpoint can be quite tricky. There is no one rule or syntax that applies to all frameworks. However, you can use a media query to ensure responsiveness. A media query is a rule that is included in the CSS property and executed if a said condition is true. The common syntax for a CSS media query is

@media media type and (condition: breakpoint) {
// CSS rules
}

Let us see how to use this syntax in action. The below code would convert the background to light blue if the screen size is smaller than 500 pixels.

@media only screen and (max-width: 500px) {
body {
background-color: lightblue;
}
}

When Should a Standard Responsive Breakpoint be Added?

A good rule to follow in this regard is to add standard responsive breakpoints when the content looks misaligned.

Visualize a paragraph of text. As the screen gets smaller, it starts to become distorted, thus hindering readability. Adding a mobile 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, it is recommended to add a standard responsive breakpoint.


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


Best Practices for Adding Standard Responsive Breakpoints

Develop for Mobile Audience: 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 due to smaller screens, developers and designers 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 prioritise 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 its parent by default. Thus most content will fit a mobile screen automatically.

Also Read: See how to test site on mobile

Reduce Friction: A responsive design automatically reconfigures the elements on the page. It uses a single fluid layout that fits any screen size. But even with a responsive design in place it is better to reduce friction by understanding and removing the unnecessary elements in the page.

  1. Prioritise 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 the common breakpoints for responsive design 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 if they happen to be mobile devices, add mobile breakpoints for those screen sizes first.

Hide or Display Elements at Certain Breakpoints: If necessary, switch content or features at common breaking points. For example, consider implementing off-canvas navigation for smaller screens and a typical navigation bar for larger ones.

Don’t Define Standard Responsive Breakpoints Based on the 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.

Common Breakpoints For Responsive Design

With the growing number of mobile devices, it is quite not possible to create mobile breakpoints for every device. Although this was the case earlier, the situation has changed quite a bit.

That said, you can always go ahead and create standard responsive breakpoints for screen sizes that are extensively used among your audiences. Listed below are the screen sizes that have been most used in 2022.

  • 1920×1080
  • 1366×768
  • 1536×864
  • 1280×720
  • 1440×900
  • 1600×900

most used screensize

Source – gs.statcounter

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.

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.

Start Testing on Real Devices

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Responsive

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