A List Apart

Menu Issue № 351

Standard vs. standard: which way of creating responsive images is best for the web?

Responsive Images and Web Standards at the Turning Point

by Mat Marquis · 42 Comments

Responsible responsive design demands responsive images, images whose dimensions and file size suit the viewport and bandwidth of the receiving device. As HTML provides no standard element to achieve this purpose, serving responsive images has meant using JavaScript trickery, and accepting that your solution will fail for some users. Then a few months ago, in response to an article here, a W3C Responsive Images Community Group formed, and proposed a simple-to-understand HTML picture element capable of serving responsive images. The group even delivered picture functionality to older browsers via two polyfills: namely, Scott Jehl's Picturefill and Abban Dunne's jQuery Picture. The WHATWG has responded by ignoring the community's work on the picture element, and proposing a more complicated img set element. Which proposed standard is better, and for whom? Which will win? And what can you do to help avert an "us versus them" crisis that could hurt end-users and turn developers off to the standards process? ALA's own Mat Marquis explains the ins and outs of responsive images and web standards at the turning point.

More from A List Apart


Ask Dr. Web with Jeffrey Zeldman

Looking for Love: Standing Out from the Crowd of Web Job Seekers

You have a solid resume, but can’t seem to connect with the right job. Maybe it's not you. Jeffrey Zeldman suggests reconsidering your career niche or refocusing your work persona. It could open fresh hiring tracks just waiting for the right candidate—you.

From the Blog

Career Consultation with Dr. Web—Live

Your career is alive, complex, and trying to grow in the right direction—but finding that path can be confusing. When you don’t know what you don’t know, or need just a nudge to kickstart your next step, a healthy dose of guidance can do the trick. In a live Q&A this December, Jeffrey Zeldman brings “Ask Dr. Web” to ALA events, answering viewer questions in real time with cohost Sarah Parmenter.