Clown Car Technique: Solving Adaptive Images In Responsive Web Design

Responsive Web Design — Adaptive images are the current hot topic in conversations about adaptive and responsive Web design. Why? Because no one likes any of the solutions thus far. New elements and attributes are being discussed as a solution for what is, for most of us, a big headache: to provide every user with one image optimized for their display size and resolution, without wasting time, memory or bandwidth with a client-side solution.

We have foreground and background images. We have large and small displays. We have regular and high-resolution displays. We have high-bandwidth and low-bandwidth connections. We have portrait and landscape orientations.

Some people waste bandwidth (and memory) by sending high-resolution images to all devices. Others send regular-resolution images to all devices, with the images looking less crisp on high-resolution displays.

What we really want to do is find the holy grail: the one solution that sends the image with the most appropriate size and resolution based on the browser and device making the request that can also be made accessible.

The “clown car” technique is the closest thing we’ve got to a holy grail: leveraging well-supported media queries, the SVG format and the <object> element to serve responsive images with a single request. The solution isn’t perfect yet, but it’s getting close.

Responsive Web Design — The “clown car” technique is the closest thing we’ve got to a holy grail: leveraging well-supported media queries, the SVG format and the

Responsive Web Design Background Images And Media Queries

We’ve solved adaptive background images. Media queries make it simple to tailor the size and resolution of images to a device’s pixel ratio, viewport size and even screen orientation.

Responsive Web Design using media queries with our background image styles, we can ensure that only the images that are needed are downloaded from the server. We can limit downloads to the assets that are most appropriate, saving bandwidth, memory and HTTP requests.

Unfortunately, there has been no solution for foreground images — until now. The technology has been available for a long time. The clown car technique is just a new technique that leverages existing technology.

Proposed Solutions With New Technology – Responsive Web Design


With inline or “content” images, getting the browser to download and display only the appropriate foreground image is a bit more difficult. Most people believe that there is no mechanism for the <img> tag to cause an image of the right size and resolution to be downloaded. To that end, polyfills have been created and services have been established.

Responsive Web Design — The <picture> element — which leverages the semantics of the HTML5 <video> element, with its support of media queries to swap in different source files — was proposed:

Read the rest of the entry from the original post by Estelle Weyl at – Responsive Web Design

Pin It on Pinterest