Responsive web design

Screen Designs & Style Guides

Concepts, requirements and recommendations

Style guides save effort, reduce queries and prevent errors in the development of a website or web application. Find out here what advantages a style guide offers, what makes a good style guide and in what form a style guide and designs developed from it can be optimally handed over to developers.

What is a style guide?

A style guide provides information about the corporate design of the company. This forms the basis for ensuring a uniform corporate identity across all media.

At the same time, a style guide speeds up the development process considerably, as a template no longer has to be created by a designer for every new element combination – predefined elements can usually be flexibly combined with each other.

It is important that the designers of the style guide also know the requirements and possibilities of web applications.

Differences Between Web vs. Print

The requirements for static print products, such as business cards, stationery, flyers or magazines, are usually lower than for web applications.

Print products can be worked with pixel precision – that is, there is a predefined output format that is filled with elements by the designer. An A4 page is designed, printed and the result is then final – a magazine does not simply change its size with the reader.

A website is accessed from countless different devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs in every conceivable screen size, resolution and orientation. What’s more, with smartphones and tablets, the orientation can be changed at any time during use by rotating the screen.

In addition, there are technical limitations, for example depending on the browser, operating system and display used. For example, web developers struggled for years with implementation problems with Internet Explorer, currently Apple restricts innovations in the development of web applications, for example, some browser functions are available in Safari on Mac, but not on iOS on iPhone or iPad.

While color saturation must be taken into account for print products, end devices for websites sometimes have considerable differences in display quality. Some subtle color contrast, which is clearly recognizable on a high-quality monitor of the designer, is displayed differently or not at all on many cheap office monitors due to their small color space – so different white tones can not be displayed on many monitors – the result is the same displayed color, the contrast is not visible to a large part of the users.

Digital Design

As already mentioned, the device landscape for web applications is very heterogeneous. Responsive design, i.e. an automatic adaptation of the website to different output formats, is now required.

Designers with print experience need to rethink here – instead of pixel-perfect layouts, developers need global design principles. A style guide for web applications thus specifies more of a set of rules, from which concrete designs are later derived. These derivations can be made for more complex elements or by the designer as well. Often, however, style guides provide a good support for developers in prototyping or editors in creating new content for the website.

Static design

When the first Blackberries and smartphones appeared, two versions of a website were simply provided – one for desktop devices, one for mobile phones. In most cases, the mobile version of the website was accessible under its own subdomain, so for years provided a mobile alternative with

Although this approach was far from ideal, it was actively used for years. Due to the ever-increasing number of end devices in a wide variety of screen sizes, formats and resolutions, alternative solutions were sought.

Grid-based design


The grid approach comes from print design and allows simple and structured layouting in columns and rows, similar to a table. In fact, in the past, websites were built mainly with tables, which led to very rigid behavior. A dynamic adaptation to mobile devices does not yet take place here.

Fluid Design


This approach adjusts the dimensions of the elements proportionally to the screen size. This works well as long as the screens do not become too wide or too narrow – but smartphones in particular have extremely different widths and heights due to their narrow structure and because they can be used both horizontally and vertically. A purely fluid design approach would thus lead to extremely wide or narrow columns or elements.

Responsive design

WordPress PageSpeed 100 Theme by specialized WordPress agency

This is a collective term that combines all the techniques that optimally ensure the user experience on every device. Here, columns can be used for a grid view if the screen is large enough, otherwise the columns are fluidly reduced in size and broken into new rows from certain screen sizes (breakpoints). Important here is the situational interaction of the available techniques and at the same time the usability for the content creator (editor). Ideally, there is a functioning standard behavior that can be flexibly adapted to individual elements in the event of borderline cases or special requests. There are many popular approaches to this, we present two here.

Column-based frameworks


Probably the most popular column-based framework is Bootstrap. In particular, these determine the responsive behavior of design elements through a technical concept. As a result, the development of websites could be massively accelerated. The approach was so successful that numerous designers now work according to Bootstrap’s 12-column grid.

However, column-based frameworks like Bootstrap have several drawbacks:

  • These frameworks are often monolithic, i.e. not modular, and increase the overhead of a website, resulting in a worse PageSpeed .
  • The number of possible columns is usually limited, for example with Bootstrap to 12 columns. This leads to limitations in the number of elements that can be displayed side by side when space is limited.
  • Technically, there is a tendency towards a strong nesting of the HTML elements, which increases the complexity.
  • In most cases, designers deviate somewhat from the rules of the framework – this leads to enormous efforts for actually trivial design elements, as these can no longer be meaningfully implemented within the framework or it would sometimes lead to strong deviations from the design template.

Since the column-based approach is still based on the raster concept, one has a rule-based approach, but still historically derived from the raster concept of print design.

Block-based frameworks

Block-based layouting follows a modular, rule-based approach. Instead of global rules for a fixed grid, there are global rules for the behavior of elements, which here are called blocks. Each block has its own global rules, from which you can deviate individually. The behavior of elements is therefore inherited and can be overwritten individually.

Block-based frameworks, such as the WordPress Block Editor (Gutenberg), have some advantages:

  • Due to the modular approach, the overhead is low and can be high according to PageSpeed.
  • There is no limit to the number of columns.
  • Nesting can also be useful here, but is less frequent and less necessary.
  • In principle, each block functions stably and reliably according to the global rules – deviations can be defined as special rules for individual blocks or block groups.

Since everything no longer has to be mapped in a grid, elements can break out much more easily – for example, be arbitrarily wider than the normal text width and no longer only within predefined columns.


An element is instructed how wide it can be maximum – for example, 1300 pixels or 100%. If the screen of the end device is wider, the element will never be larger than the defined maximum width. If the screen is smaller, the element width is reduced accordingly.

This means that a designer can specify a group with the maximum default width in the block-based layout. These are reduced in size and break responsively when using columns depending on the breakpoint reached. The next block group can have a completely different maximum width. These then override the globally defined maximum default width. For continuous texts, for example, a maximum width of 800 pixels could be more suitable for the improved reading flow.

The global rules and special rules are ideally defined by the designer in cooperation with the developers – in a style guide. So it is clear which standard widths there are, at which breakpoints should be broken, etc.

Recommendation for responsive designs

Static, purely grid-based or fluid design approaches do not meet today’s quality standards in web design. Especially when a design provides for specific special behavior for individual elements (logic deviations), a column-based framework reaches its limits.

As a rule, clients, designers and developers have a common goal: The design idea should be implemented as precisely as possible, but flexibly on a website. This balancing act succeeds by gaining control on the one hand and giving it up elsewhere.

Pixel-precise layout of all elements is not the goal, as this requires an infinite number of special rules – instead, a logically coherent and visually appealing dynamic behavior of the elements should be achieved.

The block-based approach does not try to define a grid that is valid for the entire website, but specifies a default behavior from which ideally individually for each block can be broken out at any time. However, especially in the design process, this requires that global rules of conduct are defined instead of global grids .

Requirements Styleguide

An element is repositioned faster in design tools, in grouped and responsive optimized elements on a website. An incomplete, incorrect or inconsistent style guide regularly leads to delays and errors in the technical implementation. A good style guide saves noticeably effort in the implementation.


In earlier times, but partly still today, we receive design templates in the formats Photoshop, PDF, Powerpoint or Indesign.

The disadvantage of these formats is that they are not designed for the requirements on the web. Information important to developers is missing, unreadable, or misrepresented.

Therefore, use modern collaboration tools such as Adobe XD, Figma or Zeplin for style guides.


Standard elements are configured globally and should therefore be defined centrally in a style guide, ideally for 3 breakpoints (desktop, tablet, mobile).

  • Breakpoints
    • Our WordPress theme offers 7 configurable breakpoints: Mobile (Portrait & Landscape), Tablet (Portrait & Landscape), Tablet Pro (Portrait & Landscape) and Desktop
  • Colors incl. Designation
  • Verwendete Schriftarten & Schnitte
    • For maximum PageSpeed, no more than 3-4 font styles should be used – a total cumulative across all web fonts.
  • Typografie
    • Continuous text, headings (H1-H6), links, etc.
    • Font, line height, colors, etc.
  • Buttons
  • Form elements incl. Sample
  • Vertical distances of the elements to each other (margins)
  • Horizontal spacing, e.g. for gaps
  • Style patterns, such as .B box shadows
  • Standard widths: text, wide width, etc.
  • Hover effects

Requirements Designs

Based on the style guide, we also need layouts of finished pages.


Each page needs its own workspace.

The design of the start page should therefore represent its own document, a subpage again its own. This reduces the confusion in the project as to which design is actually needed for a task. Likewise, the operation in the design tools is easier.

Developers love agile development, but afterthought – especially uncommunicated changes – to designs cause developers to start doubting themselves. It is unclear whether deviations were a bug or a hidden design update. Designs should therefore be final, subsequent changes must be communicated in detail.

Comments and annotations should preferably not be included in the design, but in a separate description for the task. This ensures that the developer does not overlook any hints.

In particular, deviations from the design specification should not be deposited in writing, but solved by a correction of the design.

Ideally, the desired result can be determined solely by looking at the design – logic descriptions for functions (e.B. animations, sliders) are then in the task description.

As developers, we need to recognize whether an element has a certain maximum width or actually occupies the full width of the screen. Therefore, use a canvas size of Full-HD (1920px width) and e.g. a maximum element width of 1440px. We then interpret surfaces that reach up to the horizontal edge as horizontal screen-filling.

Element structure

Pay attention to stringent construction.

If element groups have a different order depending on the responsive level, this can lead to high additional efforts. If an image group is displayed mobile as a slider and on desktop in columns, the technical solution is completely different.

When reviewing your designs, we will therefore always discuss such elements separately with you in order to identify effort drivers – it is best to avoid such element groups where possible.

Be sure to nest element groups in such a way that we can continue to read the spacing of the individual elements and the group.

Line Thicknesses

Line thicknesses should always be whole pixels. Sub-sizes such as 0.5 or 1.5px lead to unexpected results in the different browsers.


We need all images and graphics as downloads within the design collaboration software used. Ideally as a central media library as well as directly downloadable within the individual designs.

Images should be included in high resolution as PNG or JPGs. The optimization of the file size and compression is usually carried out automatically by us as part of the implementation.

Illustrations, graphics and icons that are vector-suitable should be integrated as SVGs – please do not hide bitmaps base64-encoded in the SVGs. Ideally, you have already web-optimized the SVGs in file size.

SVGs, especially those with fonts, must be converted to paths and grouped and must not contain embeds.

Please provide fonts as woff2, other formats are no longer up-to-date. Google Fonts usually work very well, so it is enough for us to specify the fonts and cuts and we obtain the necessary font files ourselves.

Videos should be delivered as web-optimized mp4.

For PageSpeed reasons, we do not use icon fonts, such as Font Awesome, but SVGs for icons. Font Awesome or Iconmonstr provide the corresponding SVGs as downloads.

Please normalize the sizes of the assets. Icons should have the same dimensions, as should images and videos. In this way, we avoid subsequent adjustment requests or time-consuming special rules in programming.


Good style guides are important

We love good style guides. These are the visualization of your vision and lead to an excellent technical implementation.

Often, creating a technical concept for a web application or technology testing a website requires a design template to see how the frontend should look and behave in the first place. This is the only way to assess expenses well.

The more complete and stringent the style guide and designs, the more likely it is that patterns, i.e. repetitive element types, can be recognized and taken into account in development.

As a customer, you benefit from lower costs in technical implementation and subsequent maintenance as well as better editorial usability.

Our recommendation

Use the possibilities of the block-based design approach to optimize your design ideas for the requirements of optimal responsive designs. Involve us at an early stage so that we can give feedback on style guides and designs at the beginning of the design implementation.