What is a Breakpoint in Web Design?

What is a breakpoint in web design? Despite being a complicated topic, we break down the basics for the novice web developer.
A breakpoint in web design is a point that allows for the provision of the best possible layout that enables users to consume or understand your site’s content. It is also defined as a series of conditions which, when met, set off major changes in design. A good example of a breakpoint would be one where your layout has to change from two columns to four columns.

One of the most important things to consider when thinking about major breakpoints is device classes. You are headed in the right direction if you are thinking smartphones, tablets, tablets, game consoles and televisions. The opposite is true if you are thinking about specific operating systems and brand names. The idea is to think about device classifications and if need be, capabilities of various device types. Capabilities are essential because what you have to think about how screens will look like when designing web applications.

Breakpoint in Web Design – Major, Minor and Partial Breakpoints

Major breakpoint in web design is kept to a minimum and only required when the number of columns in the layout needs to change. Columns, in the context of web design, is a term used to talk about the primary sidebar, secondary sidebar, and main content. Major breakpoints are where a web developer drops the sidebar off the screen or below the main content. It is where large blocks of the design need to shift elsewhere depending on the device used.

Creating rough sketches of significant breakpoints can help you answer several questions including:
• Are more breakpoints needed?
• Does a particular device class require further consideration or has it been neglected?
• Does the design choice fit within the budget and time constraints?
• What technologies will you need to develop your design responsively?

While major breakpoints trigger big changes, minor breakpoints result in small design changes. Otherwise known as tweakpoints, minor breakpoints often refers to small changes in spacing. This may be a slight change in how an element is a position or a bump in padding by a negligible percentage. They can also be changes in font properties. They are more frequent compared to major and partial breakpoints.

While they are sometimes grouped with major breakpoints, partial breakpoints don’t overhaul the whole web layout. They, however, result in significant changes within the heavy layout boxes. A good example is where despite having an overall number of columns that work; you still need to make a few changes to the navigation bar probably because it becomes too open or cramped when the width of the browser changes. This is something that requires more than just minor changes but won’t change the entire layout of the design.

Where do breakpoints belong in code?

The common practice is to place all the media queries towards the end of your style sheet. This is realistic only if you have a few breakpoints. A more practical approach would be adding the media queries after the CSS they affect. However, depending on the CSS processor used, you can insert your media queries inline, and the processor would do the rest.