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Change viewport metatag when matchMedia detects width

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A few months ago I was involved in a discussion on the CSS Tricks forum, where a fellow developer had built some non-responsive website applications.

The required minimum layout width was 960px, expanding wider when more space was available, but the min-width had caused issues on iPad where the initial view was zoomed in on its 768 x 1024px screen.

I don't have access to the actual problem site, but I recreated the issue on an old non-responsive site of mine that displays best at a minimum 1024px resolution.

Here's evidence of the initial 'zoomed' glitch when there is no viewport metatag present in the head of the web page - you can see that some of the banner pieces are missing from the right-hand edge of the screen and the darker purple background doesn't reach all the way to the edge;

The original developer had attempted to solve the problem using a viewport metatag set to device-width, with initial and maximum scale set to 1;
<meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1, maximum-scale=1" />
This solves the issue in landscape

But the web page displays horribly in portrait, where even more of the right-hand side is chopped off.

The original developer had consequently been led to this conclusion as the best fix for his situation;
Is there a way to have the content scale / shrink in a portrait viewport when there isn't enough room, but maintain it's actual size in landscape?
Would I be better off using something like: <meta name="viewport" content="width=960" /> ?
But I suppose that wouldn't allow the content area to grow in width if there was more available space?
So, his thought-process was spot on. He'd just been unable to implement his solution.

So I offered my own...

OK, how about if you only apply the 'width=960' viewport on screens that are 960px or less. On larger devices, use 'width=device-width'. You can do it with JavaScript and matchMedia.

First make sure that your viewport tag is in the <head> of your web page;
<meta name="viewport" content="width=960" />
Then add this JavaScript to the bottom of your page above </body>;
if (window.matchMedia) {
    var mq = window.matchMedia('(max-width:960px)'),
        viewport = document.querySelector('meta[name=viewport]');
function checkViewPort(mq) {
    mq.matches ? viewport.setAttribute('content', 'width=960') : viewport.setAttribute('content', 'width=device-width');
Here, matchMedia checks the viewport width as it changes, either when dragging the edge of a desktop browser, or by changing the orientation of an iPad/tablet, and fires the checkViewPort(mq); function at every change. If width conditions are met, the viewport's content attribute is given a value of 'width=960', else it is given a value of 'width=device-width'.

This worked an absolute treat! The layout was shrunk to fit the iPad screen in portrait (a 960px wide layout shrunk into a 768px viewport), and allowed to flow to whatever space it needs in landscape (1024px of available space).

You can see the code in action on the demo site. Hit F12 to bring up the developer console and resize the browser to see the viewport tag content attribute change. Here's an animated gif to illustrate;

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Updated 10-28-2016 at 11:59 AM by Beverleyh

JavaScript & Ajax , Web Design issues