A Responsive Images approach that you can use today!
JavaScript
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demo
PictureElement.js
README.md
matchmedia.js

README.md

Picture Element

by Nate Zaugg (https://github.com/nzaugg)

A Responsive Images approach that you can use today, that mimics the proposed picture element.

Demo URL: https://github.com/nzaugg/Picture-Element

Note: Picture Element works best in browsers that support CSS3 media queries. It includes the matchMedia polyfill which makes matchMedia work in media-query-supporting browsers that don't have matchMedia, or at least allows media types to be tested in most any browser. matchMedia and the matchMedia polyfill are not required for Picture Element to work, but they are required to support the media attributes on picture source elements.

Size and delivery

Currently, PictureElement.js compresses to around 498bytes (~0.5kb), after minify and gzip. To minify, you might try these online tools: [Uglify]:(http://marijnhaverbeke.nl/uglifyjs), [Yahoo Compressor]:(http://refresh-sf.com/yui/), or Closure Compiler. Serve with gzip compression.

Markup pattern and explanation

Mark up your responsive images like this.

    <picture alt="A giant stone face at The Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia">
        <source src="small.jpg" />
        <source src="medium.jpg"     media="(min-width: 400px)" />
        <source src="large.jpg"      media="(min-width: 800px)" />
        <source src="extralarge.jpg" media="(min-width: 1000px)" />

        <!-- Fallback content for non-JS browsers. Same img src as the initial, unqualified source element. -->
        <noscript>
            <img src="external/imgs/small.jpg" alt="A giant stone face at The Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia">
        </noscript>
    </picture>

Each source element’s media attribute accepts any and all CSS3 media queries—such as min or max width, or even min-device-pixel-ratio for HD (retina) displays.

Explained...

Notes on the markup above...

  • The picture element's alt attribute is used as alternate text for the generated img element.
  • The picture element can have any number of source elements. The above example may contain more than the average situation would call for.
  • Each source element must have a src attribute specifying the image path.
  • It's generally a good idea to include one source element with no media qualifier, so it'll apply everywhere.
  • Each source element can have an optional media attribute to make it apply in different media settings. Both media types and queries can be used, like any media attribute, but support for media queries depends on the browser (unsupporting browsers fail silently).
  • The MatchMedia.js polyfill (included) is necessary to support the media attribute across browsers, even in browsers that support media queries, although it is becoming more widely supported in new browsers.
  • The noscript element wraps the fallback image for non-JavaScript environments, and including this wrapper prevents browsers from fetching the fallback image during page load (causing unnecessary overhead). Generally, it's a good idea to reference a small image here, as it's likely to be loaded in older/underpowered mobile devices.

HD Media Queries

Picture Element natively supports HD(Retina) image replacement. While numerous other solutions exist, Picture Element has the added benefit of performance for the user in only getting served one image.

  • The media attribute supports compound media queries, allowing for very specific behaviors to emerge. For example, a data-media="(min-width: 400px) and (min-device-pixel-ratio: 2.0) attribute can be used to serve a higher resolution version of the source instead of a standard definition image. Note you currently also need to add the -webkit-min-device-pixel-ratio prefix (e.g. for iOS devices).
    <picture alt="A giant stone face at The Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia">
        <source src="small.jpg" />
        <source src="small.jpg"         media="(min-device-pixel-ratio: 2.0)" />
        <source src="medium.jpg"        media="(min-width: 400px)" />
        <source src="medium_x2.jpg"     media="(min-width: 400px) and (min-device-pixel-ratio: 2.0)" />
        <source src="large.jpg"         media="(min-width: 800px)" />
        <source src="large_x2.jpg"      media="(min-width: 800px) and (min-device-pixel-ratio: 2.0)" />
        <source src="extralarge.jpg"    media="(min-width: 1000px)" />
        <source src="extralarge_x2.jpg" media="(min-width: 1000px) and (min-device-pixel-ratio: 2.0)" />

        <!-- Fallback content for non-JS browsers. Same img src as the initial, unqualified source element. -->
        <noscript>
            <img src="external/imgs/small.jpg" alt="A giant stone face at The Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia">
        </noscript>
    </picture>
  • Note: Supporting this many breakpoints quickly adds size to the DOM and increases implementation and maintenance time, so use this technique sparingly.

Supporting IE Desktop

Internet Explorer 8 and older have no support for CSS3 Media Queries, so in the examples above, IE will receive the first src image reference (or the last one it finds that has no media attribute. If you'd like to serve a larger image to IE desktop browsers, you might consider using conditional comments, like this:

    <picture alt="A giant stone face at The Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia">
        <source src="small.jpg" />
        <source src="medium.jpg" media="(min-width: 400px)" />

        <!--[if (lt IE 9) & (!IEMobile)]>
            <source src="medium.jpg" />
        <![endif]-->

        <!-- Fallback content for non-JS browsers. Same img src as the initial, unqualified source element. -->
        <noscript>
            <img src="small.jpg" alt="A giant stone face at The Bayon temple in Angkor Thom, Cambodia">
        </noscript>
    </picture>

Support

Picture Element supports a broad range of browsers and devices (there are currently no known unsupported browsers), provided that you stick with the markup conventions provided.