Join Michael Murphy for an in-depth discussion in this video Establishing object-based Liquid Layout rules, part of InDesign for Web Design.
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If you have a controlling nature when it comes to your design work like I do, you'll probably opt for the most robust of the liquid layout rules, the Object-based method. Using Object-based liquid layout, you can set each object on the page to react precisely the way you want as the page dimensions change. However, that control comes at the cost of speed. Object-based liquid layout is the most adaptive option but requires more work up front. I want to use Object-based liquid layout to set the parameters of this page to adapt to changes in size.
When I switch to the Page tool, I'll use the keyboard shortcut Shift+P to switch to the Page tool. And when I do that, this page is selected, and you can see that my Liquid Page Rule is controlled by the Master. So I'll open up the Pages panel, and I'm going to go to the appropriate master page. By default, Liquid Page Rule is off, and I'm going to choose Object-based for this layout. Once I do this, you'll notice a number of things change as I select objects on the page. I'll click on this large content area frame, and you can see that this frame when selected with the Page tool and Object-based liquid layout chosen, looks very different than most frames have ever looked in InDesign before.
The frame has this heavy border around it, the same color as its layer color. And it's got all of these adornments like these dashed guides and solid control handle circles, and hollow circles outside of the frame, and little lock icons. And all of these are the various control points and visual indicators that tell you what this particular object's attributes are in terms of liquid layout. At first glance, this can come off as a bit confusing or overwhelming.
Fortunately, everything you hover over in this mode has a tool-tip, and it tells you that this object's width is locked. Click to let the object change width. So, I could click this guide, or I could click this control point. A solid circle means that this is a fixed width. If I click that, now it tells me that this is a flexible width and my little Lock icon has changed to a little springy icon. I can make that same change, not on the object, but right from the Liquid Layout panel by checking the Width box. You can see I get the exact same change there.
And if I click Height, then that becomes flexible as well. You also have the option to pin an object to any part of the page, which essentially forces that item to stay glued to that particular edge. Let's put this in practice and see how it works. First I'll change that, and I'm going to start with something simple like the logo in the top-left. I'll select that, and on a small object like this, these handles get a little bit hard to deal with, and the guides are a difficult to see. So I'm going to work from the panel itself.
What I want to do is make sure that whatever changes occur on the portions of this page, that my logo is always fixed to the top-left corner of this page and that it doesn't change in size. So I need to pin the object to the top and left. You can see the visual indicators change, all the circles are solid on the left side and the top side. Height and Width are not checked, so this object is going to stay fixed in size. Let's zoom out a little bit, so I can see the entire pasteboard.
And I'm going to start changing the size of this page by dragging these control handles that the Page tool gives me. Notice that as my page size changes, that logo doesn't change in size, and it doesn't change in its relationship to the top-left edge of the page. When I release, I don't want to commit to that change in the page size, so I'll just release, and it snaps back to its original format. If I did want it to change in height and width and resize, I could just check those options in the Liquid Layout panel.
And now, as I alter the size of the page, my logo box stays in that fixed location, top-left, but it gets wider as the page gets wider and shallower as the page gets shallower and so on. So, this method gives you a lot of very specific control over each object on your page. If I wanted an adaptive hero image here, something that would stay locked to the top, to the left, and the right, I can make those changes by selecting the appropriate check boxes in the Liquid Layout panel.
I want to hinge my hero image frame to the Top and to the Left and to the Right. But notice when I try to check the Right check box, it doesn't let me. That's because Liquid Layout can't obey that particular rule unless something about resizing the object changes. Think about it. If my page gets wider or narrower, and I want that frame to pin to those three sides, the size of the frame has to change. I have to allow it to resize. So, I have to check the Width box as well and permit that frame's width to change according to how the page changes, and then I can pin it to the right.
So, all of this stuff is very inter-related. There are limits to what you can lock and what you can pin based on what you allow in terms of resizing the object itself. I'm going to resize the page again just by dragging it out, and now you can see my hero image frame at the top stays glued to the top, left, and right, but its width changes in order to make that happen. Typically, the goal of applying this level of specific liquid layout behavior to your design is to see how that design adapts to changes in screen size.
You may know from your client or your web developer that what they want is a page that is not necessarily fixed in width all the time. They want something that adapts to different screen sizes and browser window widths. And as you design, you really are working with fixed values to start out with, and you want to test how exactly your design is going to hold up to changes in say the height and width of a page. And using Liquid Layout is a really good way of seeing how your design holds up in those situations.
Let's take a look at this page after I've done a fair amount of work to it and applied Liquid Layout Rules to everything on the page. I'm going to go to the liquid_finished.indd page. This is the same layout, but I've spent some time on the Master page, going in and applying Object-based liquid layout rules to every object on the page so that they behave in the way I want them to behave. Let's see what happens as I start resizing this page. First, I'm going to hide this Column grid, so we can see more of the page without distraction.
I will click, hold, and drag the bottom of this page which is selected with the Page tool, and I'm going to start pulling it out to the right. And not everything redraws right away, but you can see based on just the expansion of the frames that the objects on my page are adapting quite nicely, and my design is holding up fairly well. Now, if you've bend something far enough, it's bound to break. You're not really looking to see if your design will fit every single possible scenario out there.
You want to see if your design is going to hold up to a slightly narrower browser width, or screen size width, and if it's going to also hold up and look the way you want in a slightly larger one. So, I'm going to pull this out to a size that might show up on say a 1280-wide browser display. I'll hold down the Option key and release. So I commit to that change. Once I do that, everything refreshes, and I see my page as it is now, and it doesn't look too bad.
If I go to the second page in my document, I've got some text that's running over. But overall, my design is holding up fairly well. I do also want to point out that yes, I've changed this document page, and this document page, but if I go back to the Master, I've changed the Master as well. Using this Object-based liquid layout rule that is controlled by the Master page means you're committing to changing every document page and every master page and every master page based on that master page when you make your changes to the actual page dimensions.
Here, I've got two other Masters, both based on that first A-Standard Master page, and they've all changed just as a result of me changing that single document page. It's a document-wide change, and that's an important behavior to be aware of. The particulars of your design and the objects in your layout will ultimately determine which Liquid Layout Rule approach is best for you. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. But they are a big timesaver compared to redesigning every page manually.
- Understanding web concepts such as pages, pixels, and the box model
- Working within web colors and grids
- Working with type and type styles
- Designing a nav bar with tables
- Setting up a template with headers, footers, and modular content
- Experimenting with liquid and alternate layouts
- Adding interactive content such as links and video
- Exporting flat PNG and JPEG comps
- Exporting HTML and CSS content