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Gone are the days when the user interfaces were only designed for desktops or the web. Today, we have multiple different devices such as mobiles, tablets, laptops, etc. with ever-changing display sizes. If we believe in the current trends, then foldable devices will govern the future of interface designs.
Responsive designs likely be the future of the user interface designs going forward. Since we are unable to keep up with the endless new resolutions and devices, we are going to see a new era of UI/UX designs for the web. Creating separate versions of the web apps for different screen resolutions or devices would be impractical.
Thus, responsive web design is a great fit for those web app owners that want to gain visitors from all devices with different resolutions and screen types without losing their essence. So, let’s learn more about the new era of responsive web design, but first let’s understand what is responsive web design?
Responsive web design is a design approach of web applications that should respond to users’ behavior based on the screen size, orientation, or resolution. The responsive design consists of the use of flexible layouts, images, and intelligent use of CSS.
Such designs shift flawlessly from one device to another to accommodate resolutions, images, and others as per user behavior and preferences. This design approach would eliminate the need to design user interfaces and user experiences for different devices available in the market.
Before such types of designs were made available, interface designs were crafted in single view screens that consisted of most likely 640*480. Most of the web was built either in Flash or in HTML. But as the technology evolved and the smartphone revolution came, we went through the first fundamental shift towards responsive web design.
The release of CSS3 enabled designers to gain the access to media queries and soon after that the term “Responsive Design” was coined by Ethan Marcotte by the end of 2009. For over a decade now, we have been building web designs and layouts using the Responsive Web Design approach that adapts to different screen sizes.
Today, responsive designs have become synonymous with pages that quickly adapt to the browser, screen size, and any other limitations that are projected onto the layout. But what comes next?
Currently, responsive web designs are based on components, and very soon they’d become outdated, same as using tables for layouts. It is known that these solutions are powerful yet they are based on the one-size-fits-all and lack finesse. They lack the ability to respond to user needs and inject responsive styles into components.
Components here can be referred to as elements on the page that consists of a collection of other such elements. These components are then sawed together to make the entire page of the web apps. Components-based designs still can’t completely control their own styles and making designs even more difficult.
But worry not. As the CSS is evolving so does the whole responsive design ecosystem. In fact, it is changing pretty rapidly and a new era of responsive designs can be seen on the horizon.
Preference-based media queries are making their way into the responsive design and making the web more interactive for users. They enable designers to style and tailor web experiences in accordance with users’ needs and behavior. Further, they’d allow web designers to design adaptive UI/UX designs that are specific to a specific user’s needs.
Preference-based media queries such as @prefers-reduced-motion, @prefers-contrast, @prefers-reduced-transparency, @prefers-color-scheme, @inverted-colors, etc. would enable designers to create a more personalized and robust web experience.
They cater to specific needs, especially the accessibility ones, and even adapt to any settings a user might have set in their system. Suppose a user prefers a reduced motion, they would appreciate it if the designs are not super motion heavy for them and at the same time offers an enhanced motion experience to other users.
Container Queries are one of the most interesting areas of design in CSS. Also known as element queries, they are a bit hard to understand as to what shift they will bring from page-based design to container-based design. Also, how it would evolve the design ecosystem is still unknown.
Still, it’s better to understand where this new era of responsive design is making a shift and evolving. Container queries allow setting rules and make components more self-contained that are aligned to modern systems. They would become truly a plug and play modules and can be moved to any page or layout without giving a thought to its new environment.
This is a more dynamic approach that is concerned with how we plan, design, and build specific components for responsive design.
Screen form factors have taken a shift and expanded from a single screen to foldable and dual screens. There comes a need for media queries for scenarios like I mentioned. It still needs much work and has to deal with all the intricacies even for the future screen form factors that might evolve.
Media queries would allow contents to be changed as per the screen-spanning or any other new environment such as foldable screens.
There are still many new concepts and prototypes under the pipeline that may get introduced as we proceed further into the future. Container queries will be so important going forward to explore the new UI/UX design era beyond just the flat screens. This new era of responsive web design is here to stay for good.