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6 Tips for a Responsive Angular Application

As a web developer, there inevitably comes a time when we have to add responsiveness to an application. If you use Angular at your work, I've found some solutions that may help you deliver beautiful experience for multiple devices. Some of them are pretty basic, but they are still good practices you should follow.

PS. Every example below is written in CoffeeScript, SASS or SLIM.

1. Media queries

This is the simplest solution that probably everybody knows about. We are using SASS, so the easiest way to work with media queries in a way that will organise your stylesheets is to create a few variables, the most basic being:

$desktop: 960px
$tablet: 768px
$mobile-large: 640px
$mobile: 480px
$mobile-small: 300px

and then you can just implement it like this:

@media only screen and (max-width :  $desktop/$tablet/$mobile-large/$mobile/$mobile-small)

One pitfall that is common when developing a responsive app is creating another file called responsive.sass that holds all media queries. Don't do this — it doesn't end up making your stylesheets more organized. Instead, just mix your media queries inside a class that you want to change. For example:

.item
  width: 25%
  display: inline-block
  @media only screen and (max-width: $tablet)
    width: 50%
  @media only screen and (max-width: $mobile-large)
    width: 100%

2. Detect size

Inevitably, we sometimes need to disable certain features for mobile. To check the window width I recommend setting $watch and creating a $rootScope value for it. Then it can easily be checked without having to multiply one function in every directive/controller that you need.

  $rootScope.$watch ->
    $rootScope.responsive = $window.outerWidth < 641

Just place it in init.js.coffee in the .run function and then it will be working as expected.

3. Detect mobile device

I encountered one case when I needed to add a touch trigger for mobile devices. Detecting size or media queries wasn't enough, so I needed to detect the specific device, which the code below does.

detectMobile = () ->
  isMobile = (/android|webos|iphone|ipad|ipod|blackberry|windows phone/).test(navigator.userAgent.toLowerCase())
  isMobile
$rootScope.mobileDevice = detectMobile()

Again, put it in init.js.coffee in the .run function.

4. Drag and drop in mobile devices

It's really simple when you use jquery-ui.

gem 'rails-assets-jquery-ui-touch-punch-valid'

All you have to do is add the code above to your 'Gemfile'. It will transform clicks to taps.

5. Scroll to new

On mobile devices we have a problem with space, so we put elements under themselves. In a situation when we create a new object — which will create a new UI element on mobile — we need to scroll to that object. Using lodash and Angular's $watchCollection you can create something like this:

scope.$watchCollection 'exampleCollection', (newGroup, oldGroup) ->
  if newGroup?.length > oldGroup?.length
    elAdded = _.difference(newGroup, oldGroup)[0]
    index = _.findIndex(newGroup, (group) -> group == elAdded)
    if index != -1
      scrollvalue = angular.element(element[0]).children().eq(index)[0].offsetTop
      window.scrollTo(0, scrollvalue)

This sets a watch on exampleCollection in the directive. If an object is added, the script checks the object's index, finds it in DOM and scrolls to it.

6. Phone number detection

One time I had some strange issues on an iPad. I was displaying a number that could be interpreted as a phone number. When the device detected the number, the markup changed and a new anchor was added with the phone number instead of a plain number. To fix this, we can simply add this code into to head section.

meta[name="format-detection" content="telephone=no"]

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