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Designing for flexible layouts

From: CSS: Page Layouts

Video: Designing for flexible layouts

Flexible layouts allow you to create layouts that adjust based on the width of the browser or the viewport. If the browser is resized, flexible layouts will increase or decrease the available space for all content regions within a layout. This gives you the ability to design a layout that takes advantage of the space available to it, and can present a different look to viewers, based on the size of the browser window. Designing flexible layouts can be much more labor-intensive than designing fixed layouts, as you have to carefully plan out the relationship between all the elements within the layout.

Designing for flexible layouts

Flexible layouts allow you to create layouts that adjust based on the width of the browser or the viewport. If the browser is resized, flexible layouts will increase or decrease the available space for all content regions within a layout. This gives you the ability to design a layout that takes advantage of the space available to it, and can present a different look to viewers, based on the size of the browser window. Designing flexible layouts can be much more labor-intensive than designing fixed layouts, as you have to carefully plan out the relationship between all the elements within the layout.

What looks good at one size doesn't necessarily work at another size. That means that just like fixed layouts, there are pros and cons to using flexible layouts. Now the biggest positive for you users is that you have a layout that conforms their current resolution, and they're not having to do unnecessary scrolling, zooming, or size adjustments. It also gives them the freedom to resize the window without the additional penalty of horizontal scrollbars or content being lost. As a designer, you're freed from the rigid constraints of fixed layouts.

Instead of defining a pixel-perfect relationship between elements, you focus more on how those elements should relate and interact to each other in a generic way, and are less worried about exactly how much space a certain gutter or element is occupying. The flip side of that is that you do have to give up a certain amount of control over your design, and designers often balk at not being able to control exactly how their content is viewed. But with flexible layouts, you have to be content with losing some of that control.

Flexible layouts also often have element-spacing issues, especially at the extremes of viewport width. Now, really large resolutions often end up with a tremendous amount of space between elements, while smaller resolutions often create layouts that don't have enough separation. That's why it's common to have minimum and maximum width values specified for flexible layouts, to create a range of acceptable resolutions. Now this also means the flexible layouts are a lot harder to design. They require more planning, and the code for them is generally more complex.

Keep these factors in mind as you begin to plan your layouts and they'll help you determine whether a flexible layout is right for your project or not. For the rest of this chapter, we will break down what goes in to planning and building flexible layouts, and we are going to start by tackling one of the hardest aspects of it first, determining your layout dimensions.

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CSS: Page Layouts

71 video lessons · 40848 viewers

James Williamson
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  1. 4m 20s
    1. Welcome
      54s
    2. How to use the exercise files
      3m 26s
  2. 1h 39m
    1. Box model review
      8m 47s
    2. Calculating element dimensions
      11m 11s
    3. Understanding margin collapse
      7m 59s
    4. Calculating em values
      7m 41s
    5. Calculating percentage values
      7m 51s
    6. Normal document flow
      13m 3s
    7. Controlling element display
      8m 53s
    8. Using CSS Resets
      7m 11s
    9. Fixed, fluid, and responsive layouts
      9m 9s
    10. CSS debugging tools
      6m 46s
    11. Using the Firebug Inspector and the WebKit Web Inspector
      11m 5s
  3. 53m 15s
    1. Page design workflow
      3m 6s
    2. Page design tools
      4m 56s
    3. Determining page structure
      7m 18s
    4. Creating image assets
      8m 58s
    5. Creating initial page structure
      7m 3s
    6. Adding meaning with classes and IDs
      5m 23s
    7. Structuring content with HTML5
      6m 6s
    8. Building internal structure
      10m 25s
  4. 1h 36m
    1. Floating elements
      7m 50s
    2. Clearing floats
      7m 28s
    3. Containing floats
      7m 50s
    4. Clearfix technique
      10m 38s
    5. Floating inline elements
      14m 34s
    6. Two-column floated layouts
      8m 17s
    7. Three-column floated layouts
      11m 30s
    8. Column height considerations
      7m 3s
    9. Creating equal-height columns
      10m 42s
    10. Floats: Lab
      5m 25s
    11. Floats: Solution
      5m 21s
  5. 51m 42s
    1. Relative positioning
      7m 59s
    2. Absolute positioning
      8m 59s
    3. Fixed positioning
      4m 23s
    4. Controlling stacking order
      8m 31s
    5. Clipping content
      8m 21s
    6. Controlling content overflow
      5m 38s
    7. Positioning elements: Lab
      3m 59s
    8. Positioning elements: Solution
      3m 52s
  6. 48m 46s
    1. Design considerations for fixed layouts
      3m 28s
    2. Establishing the layout grid
      7m 57s
    3. Defining column spacing
      9m 30s
    4. Applying the grid through CSS
      8m 56s
    5. Creating grid-based assets
      8m 26s
    6. Grid design resources
      6m 22s
    7. Building fixed layouts: Lab
      4m 7s
  7. 44m 35s
    1. Designing for flexible layouts
      2m 30s
    2. Calculating percentage values
      8m 45s
    3. Setting flexible width values
      6m 6s
    4. Making images flexible
      8m 10s
    5. Setting minimum and maximum widths
      7m 24s
    6. Building flexible layouts: Lab
      4m 53s
    7. Building flexible layouts: Solution
      6m 47s
  8. 49m 36s
    1. Responsive layout overview
      3m 49s
    2. Using media queries
      7m 16s
    3. Organizing styles
      8m 39s
    4. Making content responsive
      8m 33s
    5. Mobile design considerations
      7m 32s
    6. Building responsive layouts: Lab
      4m 23s
    7. Building responsive layouts: Solution
      9m 24s
  9. 1h 22m
    1. Creating multi-column text
      6m 36s
    2. Using borders to enhance design
      13m 59s
    3. Rounding corners
      6m 56s
    4. Adding drop shadows
      10m 35s
    5. Working with opacity
      6m 8s
    6. Utilizing the background property
      15m 5s
    7. Working with CSS sprites
      7m 58s
    8. Enhancing page design: Lab
      6m 22s
    9. Enhancing page design: Solution
      8m 38s
  10. 6m 25s
    1. Additional resources
      6m 25s

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