Serving images responsively

This article first appeared in issue 240 of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.

If you’re thinking about responsive design (and who isn’t these days), the chances are you’ll also need to think about image quality. The problem is that an image designed to look good on a 27 inch monitor probably won’t look too good on a 3.5 inch screen. Even if it did, it makes no sense to serve a huge image to a small screen device, then force it to waste resources scaling it down to fit.

Enter two possible solutions, in the form of HTML extensions for adaptive images: the picture element, and the srcset attribute. Both are in draft status but, if added to the HTML specification, they will make it possible to display an image that can come from a choice of sources.

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