Tips for Building a Responsive Web App

With the multitude of different web-enabled devices in use today, a responsive web app can help you reach a wide range of users while maintaining a single code base. If you’ve decided to take on the challenge of building a responsive web app, here are some tips to help you get started.


Mobile First is Essential

One of the biggest challenges of building a responsive web app is considering how the app will work across a range of devices with various capabilities and screen sizes. Rather than trying to consider all devices at the same time, think about the smallest screen first. The limited screen size of a mobile device forces you to prioritize the features of your app so you can decide what is most important. With the core features already established, you can consider how the app might be enhanced as additional space becomes available on larger screens. A mobile first approach also helps you to keep the app’s UI simple and clear from the start, which serves as a solid foundation for progressive enhancement.

Modularize Components

With the features of your app established, you will probably notice there are design patterns or functional components that are reused in various contexts throughout the app. Building the app in a modular fashion can help keep the code clean and the app’s components transportable. By breaking down the app into individual modules that can be combined to form any number of possible layouts, you will keep the app flexible and easy to maintain.

Add Responsive JavaScript

CSS media queries can be used to adjust the presentation of content based on screen size and various other features. Unfortunately, applying different JavaScript functionality based on media queries isn’t so easy. One solution is to use the window.matchMedia method to apply JavaScript to certain breakpoints. However, that method can become difficult to maintain on larger projects since it requires the developer to keep track of breakpoints in two places: CSS and JavaScript. One alternative is the open source js-breakpoints library built by 14islands. This library syncs CSS media queries to breakpoints in JavaScript, so you only need to maintain media queries in one place. Using one of these techniques can help you add layers of functionality to your responsive web app based on device features.

By approaching the project mobile first, keeping components modular, and adding functionality based on device features, you will be on your way to building a responsive web app. This not only provides a consistent user experience on a variety of devices, but also can be easily maintained and enhanced with future updates.

Breanna Wong is the Front-End Developer at Flying Cork.