Responsive Design

Overview

Responsive interfaces adjust their components to fit the available space on a variety of page widths. In Appian, you can design responsive interfaces that look great on screens from small phones to large desktops by using the a!isPageWidth() function and the stack when parameter.

The a!isPageWidth() function checks the page width (not window width) and allows you to conditionally change any component behavior or display different adaptive layouts based on that width. It works the same on desktop and mobile browsers, and the mobile app. To use the function, write if statements to define the page widths at which you want the component behavior to change.

The stack when parameter allows you to control the vertical stacking behavior of columns or side by side items based on the width of the user's page. It works the same on desktop and mobile browsers, and the mobile app. To use the stack when parameter in Design Mode, choose one of the value options like "Tablet Portrait or Narrower" to not only stack at the page width specified, but at all narrower page widths. To use the parameter in Expression Mode, list all the widths at which you want to stack the side by side or columns layouts.

For both the a!isPageWidth() function and the stack when parameter, you can choose from a list of form factors that represent a range of widths for most devices.

When should I use this?

By default, columns stack at phone width and side by side items never stack. If you're designing simple interfaces that are intended to be used on a single page width, these default behaviors should be sufficient. However, if your interface will be viewed at various page widths, use a!isPageWidth() and stack when to help you achieve a responsive UI.

Appian also has the a!isNativeMobile function, which determines if the interface is being viewed on the Appian for Mobile Devices application. This function returns true when a user is on the mobile app and false if they're on a mobile or desktop browser. This makes it perfect for defining behavior based on whether or not a user is on the Appian for Mobile Devices app, such as checking for users not on the app and showing them a link that redirects them to download Appian for Mobile Devices.

The a!isNativeMobile() function should only be used to define behaviors that are dependent on whether or not the mobile app is being used. Since it cannot determine the screen size of the mobile device, it should not be used to define UI changes like stacking, resizing a component, or component visibility based on device width. Instead, define these behaviors using the stack when parameter and a!isPageWidth() function.

Responsive landing page example

Let's walk through an example to show how to use a!isPageWidth() and stack when together. The example already uses the stack when parameter, but we will add it in a few more places and add the a!isPageWidth() function to create a more responsive experience.

Copy and paste the following expression into EXPRESSION MODE in your new interface.

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a!headerContentLayout(
  header: {
    a!cardLayout(
      contents: {
        a!columnsLayout(
          columns: {
            a!columnLayout(),
            a!columnLayout(
              contents: {
                a!columnsLayout(
                  columns: {
                    a!columnLayout(
                      contents: {
                        a!richTextDisplayField(
                          labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                          value: {
                            a!richTextItem(
                              text: {
                                "Hi, " & user(loggedinuser(), "firstName") & "."
                              },
                              size: "MEDIUM_PLUS"
                            ),
                            char(10),
                            a!richTextItem(
                              text: {
                                "What do you need help with today?"
                              },
                              size: "LARGE",
                              style: {
                                "STRONG"
                              }
                            ),
                            char(10),
                            char(10)
                          }
                        )
                      }
                    ),
                    a!columnLayout(
                      contents: {
                        a!imageField(
                          label: "Welcome Image",
                          labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                          images: {
                            a!documentImage(
                              document: a!EXAMPLE_RECEPTIONIST_IMAGE()
                            )
                          },
                          size: "FIT",
                          isThumbnail: false,
                          style: "STANDARD"
                        )
                      },
                      width: "MEDIUM"
                    )
                  },
                  alignVertical: "MIDDLE"
                )
              },
              width: "WIDE_PLUS"
            ),
            a!columnLayout()
          },
          alignVertical: "MIDDLE",
          stackWhen: {
            "PHONE",
            "TABLET_PORTRAIT"
          }
        )
      },
      height: "AUTO",
      style: "#cc0000",
      marginBelow: "NONE",
      showBorder: false
    )
  },
  contents: {
    a!columnsLayout(
      columns: {
        a!columnLayout(),
        a!columnLayout(
          contents: {
            a!columnsLayout(
              columns: {
                a!columnLayout(
                  contents: {
                    a!cardLayout(
                      contents: {
                        a!columnsLayout(
                          columns: {
                            a!columnLayout(
                              contents: {
                                a!cardLayout(
                                  contents: {
                                    a!imageField(
                                      label: "Category Image",
                                      labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                                      images: {
                                        a!documentImage(
                                          document: a!EXAMPLE_INSURANCE_IMAGE()
                                        )
                                      },
                                      size: "FIT",
                                      isThumbnail: false,
                                      style: "STANDARD",
                                      align: "CENTER"
                                    )
                                  },
                                  height: "AUTO",
                                  style: "#434343",
                                  marginBelow: "NONE",
                                  showBorder: false
                                )
                              },
                              width: "NARROW"
                            ),
                            a!columnLayout(
                              contents: {
                                a!cardLayout(
                                  contents: {
                                    a!richTextDisplayField(
                                      label: "Rich Text",
                                      labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                                      value: {
                                        a!richTextItem(
                                          text: {
                                            "Insurance"
                                          },
                                          color: "ACCENT",
                                          size: "LARGE"
                                        )
                                      }
                                    ),
                                    a!richTextDisplayField(
                                      labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                                      value: {
                                        a!richTextItem(
                                          text: {
                                            "Medical, dental, vision, and supplemental coverage"
                                          },
                                          color: "STANDARD",
                                          size: "MEDIUM"
                                        )
                                      }
                                    )
                                  },
                                  height: "AUTO",
                                  style: "NONE",
                                  padding: "STANDARD",
                                  marginBelow: "NONE",
                                  showBorder: false
                                )
                              }
                            )
                          },
                          spacing: "NONE",
                          stackWhen: {
                            "PHONE",
                            "TABLET_PORTRAIT",
                            "TABLET_LANDSCAPE"
                          }
                        )
                      },
                      link: a!dynamicLink(),
                      height: "AUTO",
                      style: "NONE",
                      padding: "NONE",
                      marginBelow: "STANDARD"
                    ),
                    a!cardLayout(
                      contents: {
                        a!columnsLayout(
                          columns: {
                            a!columnLayout(
                              contents: {
                                a!cardLayout(
                                  contents: {
                                    a!imageField(
                                      label: "Category Image",
                                      labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                                      images: {
                                        a!documentImage(
                                          document: a!EXAMPLE_IT_SUPPORT_IMAGE()
                                        )
                                      },
                                      size: "FIT",
                                      isThumbnail: false,
                                      style: "STANDARD",
                                      align: "CENTER"
                                    )
                                  },
                                  height: "AUTO",
                                  style: "#434343",
                                  marginBelow: "NONE",
                                  showBorder: false
                                )
                              },
                              width: "NARROW"
                            ),
                            a!columnLayout(
                              contents: {
                                a!cardLayout(
                                  contents: {
                                    a!richTextDisplayField(
                                      label: "Rich Text",
                                      labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                                      value: {
                                        a!richTextItem(
                                          text: {
                                            "IT Support"
                                          },
                                          color: "ACCENT",
                                          size: "LARGE"
                                        )
                                      }
                                    ),
                                    a!richTextDisplayField(
                                      labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                                      value: {
                                        a!richTextItem(
                                          text: {
                                            "Computer equipment, software, telecom issues"
                                          },
                                          color: "STANDARD",
                                          size: "MEDIUM"
                                        )
                                      }
                                    )
                                  },
                                  height: "AUTO",
                                  style: "NONE",
                                  padding: "STANDARD",
                                  marginBelow: "NONE",
                                  showBorder: false
                                )
                              }
                            )
                          },
                          spacing: "NONE",
                          stackWhen: {
                            "PHONE",
                            "TABLET_LANDSCAPE",
                            "TABLET_PORTRAIT"
                          }
                        )
                      },
                      link: a!dynamicLink(),
                      height: "AUTO",
                      style: "NONE",
                      padding: "NONE",
                      marginBelow: "STANDARD"
                    )
                  }
                ),
                a!columnLayout(
                  contents: {
                    a!cardLayout(
                      contents: {
                        a!columnsLayout(
                          columns: {
                            a!columnLayout(
                              contents: {
                                a!cardLayout(
                                  contents: {
                                    a!imageField(
                                      label: "Category Image",
                                      labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                                      images: {
                                        a!documentImage(
                                          document: a!EXAMPLE_FINANCE_IMAGE()
                                        )
                                      },
                                      size: "FIT",
                                      isThumbnail: false,
                                      style: "STANDARD",
                                      align: "CENTER"
                                    )
                                  },
                                  height: "AUTO",
                                  style: "#434343",
                                  marginBelow: "NONE",
                                  showBorder: false
                                )
                              },
                              width: "NARROW"
                            ),
                            a!columnLayout(
                              contents: {
                                a!cardLayout(
                                  contents: {
                                    a!richTextDisplayField(
                                      label: "Rich Text",
                                      labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                                      value: {
                                        a!richTextItem(
                                          text: {
                                            "Finance"
                                          },
                                          color: "ACCENT",
                                          size: "LARGE"
                                        )
                                      }
                                    ),
                                    a!richTextDisplayField(
                                      labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                                      value: {
                                        a!richTextItem(
                                          text: {
                                            "Expense reimbursement, pay stubs, retirement accounts"
                                          },
                                          color: "STANDARD",
                                          size: "MEDIUM"
                                        )
                                      }
                                    )
                                  },
                                  height: "AUTO",
                                  style: "NONE",
                                  padding: "STANDARD",
                                  marginBelow: "NONE",
                                  showBorder: false
                                )
                              }
                            )
                          },
                          spacing: "NONE",
                          stackWhen: {
                            "PHONE",
                            "TABLET_PORTRAIT",
                            "TABLET_LANDSCAPE"
                          }
                        )
                      },
                      link: a!dynamicLink(),
                      height: "AUTO",
                      style: "NONE",
                      padding: "NONE",
                      marginBelow: "STANDARD"
                    ),
                    a!cardLayout(
                      contents: {
                        a!columnsLayout(
                          columns: {
                            a!columnLayout(
                              contents: {
                                a!cardLayout(
                                  contents: {
                                    a!imageField(
                                      label: "Category Image",
                                      labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                                      images: {
                                        a!documentImage(
                                          document: a!EXAMPLE_FACILITIES_IMAGE()
                                        )
                                      },
                                      size: "FIT",
                                      isThumbnail: false,
                                      style: "STANDARD",
                                      align: "CENTER"
                                    )
                                  },
                                  height: "AUTO",
                                  style: "#434343",
                                  marginBelow: "NONE",
                                  showBorder: false
                                )
                              },
                              width: "NARROW"
                            ),
                            a!columnLayout(
                              contents: {
                                a!cardLayout(
                                  contents: {
                                    a!richTextDisplayField(
                                      label: "Rich Text",
                                      labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                                      value: {
                                        a!richTextItem(
                                          text: {
                                            "Facilities"
                                          },
                                          color: "ACCENT",
                                          size: "LARGE"
                                        )
                                      }
                                    ),
                                    a!richTextDisplayField(
                                      labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                                      value: {
                                        a!richTextItem(
                                          text: {
                                            "Office supplies, HVAC, refreshments"
                                          },
                                          color: "STANDARD",
                                          size: "MEDIUM"
                                        )
                                      }
                                    )
                                  },
                                  height: "AUTO",
                                  style: "NONE",
                                  padding: "STANDARD",
                                  marginBelow: "NONE",
                                  showBorder: false
                                )
                              }
                            )
                          },
                          spacing: "NONE",
                          stackWhen: {
                            "PHONE",
                            "TABLET_PORTRAIT",
                            "TABLET_LANDSCAPE"
                          }
                        )
                      },
                      link: a!dynamicLink(),
                      height: "AUTO",
                      style: "NONE",
                      padding: "NONE",
                      marginBelow: "STANDARD"
                    )
                  }
                )
              }
            )
          },
          width: "WIDE_PLUS"
        ),
        a!columnLayout()
      }
    )
  },
  backgroundColor: "TRANSPARENT"
)

We will start by looking at the interface at different screen sizes to determine if there are points where its contents overlap or don't have enough room to display. A good way to do this is by using the Fit form factor preview option in the interface and dragging the panes to update the live view.

You can also check each form factor preview by selecting its toggle in the upper right-hand corner of the live preview. For example, to preview an interface on a portrait-orientation tablet, select the tablet icon then click the rotate button.

This gif shows testing the responsive behavior of the example using the Fit form factor before changes are made to the example so that you can see the text wrapping.

Notice that when we shrink the interface using the fit form factor, the header text becomes unreadable and the card text begins to wrap. This happens when the screen is approximately the size of a portrait-oriented tablet. We can solve these problems by adding the stack when parameter to the header and the a!isPageWidth() function to the size parameter of the text and image fields in the header and cards.

To make the header more responsive:

  1. In the header, click the Columns Layout containing the rich text and image components.
  2. In the COMPONENT CONFIGURATION pane, find Stack When and select Portrait Tablet or narrower for the value.
  3. In the header, click the rich text component.
  4. In the COMPONENT CONFIGURATION pane, find Display Value and click Configure items.
  5. Select the second Styled Text option.
  6. In Size, click Edit as Expression.
  7. Copy and paste the following expression:
    • if(a!isPageWidth("TABLET_PORTRAIT"),"MEDIUM_PLUS","LARGE")
    • This expression creates a condition that will change the size of the styled text to "MEDIUM_PLUS" if the page width is "TABLET_PORTRAIT". If not, the text size will be "LARGE".
  8. Click OK.
  9. In the header, click the image component.
  10. In Size, click Edit as Expression.
  11. Copy and paste the following expression:
    • if(a!isPageWidth({"PHONE", "TABLET_PORTRAIT", "TABLET_LANDSCAPE"}), "MEDIUM", "FIT")
  12. Click OK.

With the header configured, we can move on to adding a!isPageWidth() to the size parameters of the rich text and image components within the "Insurance", "IT Support", "Finance", and "Facilities" options.

To make the option cards more responsive:

  1. In the "Insurance" option, click the image component.
  2. In the COMPONENT CONFIGURATION, click Edit as Expression adjacent to Size.
  3. Copy and paste the following expression:
    • if(a!isPageWidth({"PHONE", "TABLET_LANDSCAPE"}), "MEDIUM","FIT")
  4. Click OK.
  5. In the "Insurance" card, click the rich text component that says "Insurance".
  6. In COMPONENT CONFIGURATION under Display Value, click Configure items.
  7. Click Styled Text.
  8. In Size, click Edit as Expression.
  9. Copy and paste the following expression:
    • if(a!isPageWidth("TABLET_PORTRAIT"),"MEDIUM_PLUS","LARGE")
  10. Click OK.
  11. Repeat these steps for the image and rich text fields in the "IT Support", "Finance", and "Facilities" options.

Let's test the interface again to check the responsive behavior. At this point, the images are a smaller size, the text doesn't wrap, and every component on the interface has room to display properly.

This gif shows testing the responsive behavior of the example using the Fit form factor after changes are made to the example so that you can see that the text no longer wraps and everything fits.

Responsive grid example

Now we'll look at an example of the stack when parameter that shows how to stack columns at a certain width and unstack them after.

Copy and paste the following expression into EXPRESSION MODE.

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{
  a!localVariables(
    local!employees: {
      a!map(id: 1, name: "Elizabeth Ward",  dept: "Engineering",     role: "Senior Engineer",      team: "Front-End Components",     pto: 15, startDate: today()-500),
      a!map(id: 2, name: "Michael Johnson", dept: "Finance",         role: "Payroll Manager",      team: "Accounts Payable",         pto: 2,  startDate: today()-100),
      a!map(id: 3, name: "John Smith",      dept: "Engineering",     role: "Quality Engineer",     team: "User Acceptance Testing",  pto: 5,  startDate: today()-1000),
      a!map(id: 4, name: "Diana Hellstrom", dept: "Engineering",     role: "UX Designer",          team: "User Experience",          pto: 49, startDate: today()-1200),
      a!map(id: 5, name: "Francois Morin",  dept: "Sales",           role: "Account Executive",    team: "Commercial North America", pto: 15, startDate: today()-700),
      a!map(id: 6, name: "Maya Kapoor",     dept: "Sales",           role: "Regional Director",    team: "Front-End Components",     pto: 15, startDate: today()-1400),
      a!map(id: 7, name: "Anthony Wu",      dept: "Human Resources", role: "Benefits Coordinator", team: "Accounts Payable",         pto: 2,  startDate: today()-300)
    },
    local!selectedEmployee: local!employees[4],
    {
      a!columnsLayout(
        columns: {
          a!columnLayout(
            contents: {
              a!sectionLayout(
                label: "Employees",
                contents: {
                  a!gridField(
                    data: todatasubset(
                      local!employees,
                      fv!pagingInfo
                    ),
                    columns: {
                      a!gridColumn(
                        label: "Name",
                        value: fv!row.name
                      ),
                      a!gridColumn(
                        label: "Department",
                        value: fv!row.dept
                      )
                    },
                    pageSize: 7,
                    selectable: true,
                    selectionStyle: "ROW_HIGHLIGHT",
                    selectionValue: index(local!selectedEmployee, "id", {}),
                    selectionSaveInto: {
                      /* This save replaces the value of the previously selected item with that of the newly selected item, ensuring only one item can be selected at once.*/
                      a!save(
                        local!selectedEmployee,
                        if(
                          length(fv!selectedRows) > 0,
                          fv!selectedRows[length(fv!selectedRows)],
                          null
                        )
                      )
                    },
                    shadeAlternateRows: false,
                    rowHeader: 1
                  )
                }
              )
            }
          ),
          a!columnLayout(
            contents: {
              a!sectionLayout(
                label: "Employee Details",
                contents: {
                  a!richTextDisplayField(
                    value: a!richTextItem(
                      text: "No employee selected.",
                      color: "SECONDARY",
                      size: "MEDIUM",
                      style: "EMPHASIS"
                    ),
                    showWhen: isnull(local!selectedEmployee)
                  ),
                  a!columnsLayout(
                    columns: {
                      a!columnLayout(
                        contents: {
                          a!textField(
                            label: "Name",
                            value: local!selectedEmployee.name,
                            readOnly: true
                          ),
                          a!textField(
                            label: "Department",
                            value: local!selectedEmployee.dept,
                            readOnly: true
                          )
                        }
                      ),
                      a!columnLayout(
                        contents: {
                          a!textField(
                            label: "Role",
                            value: local!selectedEmployee.role,
                            readOnly: true
                          ),
                          a!textField(
                            label: "Start Date",
                            value: text(local!selectedEmployee.startDate, "MMM dd, yyyy"),
                            readOnly: true
                          )
                        }
                      ),
                      a!columnLayout(
                        contents: {
                          a!textField(
                            label: "Team",
                            value: local!selectedEmployee.team,
                            readOnly: true
                          ),
                          a!textField(
                            label: "Available PTO",
                            value: local!selectedEmployee.pto & " days",
                            readOnly: true
                          )
                        }
                      )
                    },
                    showWhen: not(isnull(local!selectedEmployee)),
                    stackWhen: {
                      "PHONE",
                      "TABLET_LANDSCAPE"
                    }
                  )
                }
              )
            }
          )
        },
        stackWhen: {
          "PHONE",
          "TABLET_PORTRAIT"
        }
      )
    }
  )
}

When we shrink the page using the fit form factor option, notice the behavior of the Employee Details column. At desktop and desktop narrow page widths, the three Employee Details columns are shown next to each other.

At the landscape tablet width, we stack the three Employee Details columns to ensure the details have enough room. With these columns stacked, there is enough space for the Employees grid and Employee Details to show next to each other.

This changes once we choose the portrait tablet width. Since there is less horizontal space, we stack the Employees grid and Employee Details on top of each other. This gives the Employee Details more space, so we unstack these columns.

Finally, at phone width, we stack everything to give it room to display.

gif showing the grid's responsiveness using the fit form factor

Conditionally display components

Lastly, we'll use the Stamp Steps (Icon) pattern as an a!isPageWidth() example. Take a look at how it adapts to conditionally display different components and layouts depending on width.

Copy and paste the following expression into EXPRESSION MODE.

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{
  a!localVariables(
    local!iconStampSteps: {
      a!map(icon: "calendar",      name: "Enter Dates"), 
      a!map(icon: "search",        name: "Search Deals"), 
      a!map(icon: "shopping-cart", name: "Check Out")
    },
    a!columnsLayout(
      columns: {
        a!columnLayout(),
        a!columnLayout(
          contents: {
            if(
              /* Display steps vertically for phone and tablet portrait page width */
              a!isPageWidth({"PHONE", "TABLET_PORTRAIT"}),
              a!forEach(
                items: local!iconStampSteps,
                expression: {
                  a!stampField(
                    icon: fv!item.icon,
                    backgroundColor: "TRANSPARENT",
                    contentColor: "ACCENT",
                    size: "MEDIUM",
                    align: "CENTER"
                  ),
                  a!richTextDisplayField(
                    labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                    value: a!richTextItem(
                      text: {
                        a!richTextItem(
                          text: fv!index & ". "
                        ),
                        fv!item.name
                      },
                      size: "MEDIUM"
                    ),
                    align: "CENTER"
                  ),
                  a!richTextDisplayField()
                }
              ),
              /* Display steps horizontally for other page widths */
              {
                /* Display stamp and dots in sideBySideLayout */
                a!sideBySideLayout(
                  items: {
                    a!sideBySideItem(),
                    /* Extra spacing before first stamp */
                    a!sideBySideItem(
                      item: a!richTextDisplayField(
                        value: a!richTextItem(
                          text: " "
                        )
                      ),
                      width: "MINIMIZE"
                    ),
                    a!forEach(
                      items: local!iconStampSteps.icon,
                      expression: {
                        a!sideBySideItem(
                          item: a!stampField(
                            icon: fv!item,
                            backgroundColor: "TRANSPARENT",
                            contentColor: "ACCENT",
                            align: "CENTER"
                          ),
                          width: "MINIMIZE"
                        ),
                        a!sideBySideItem(
                          item: a!richTextDisplayField(
                            value: a!richTextItem(
                              text: repeat(13, " " & char(9679)),
                              color: "SECONDARY",
                              size: "SMALL"
                            )
                          ),
                          width: "MINIMIZE",
                          showWhen: not(fv!isLast)
                        )
                      }
                    ),
                    a!sideBySideItem(
                      width: "MINIMIZE"
                    ),
                    a!sideBySideItem()
                  },
                  alignVertical: "MIDDLE"
                ),
                /* Display step names in columnsLayout */
                a!columnsLayout(
                  columns: {
                    a!columnLayout(
                      width: "EXTRA_NARROW"
                    ),
                    a!forEach(
                      items: local!iconStampSteps.name,
                      expression: {
                        a!columnLayout(
                          contents: {
                            a!richTextDisplayField(
                              labelPosition: "COLLAPSED",
                              value: a!richTextItem(
                                text: {
                                  a!richTextItem(
                                    text: fv!index & ". "
                                  ),
                                  fv!item
                                },
                                size: "MEDIUM"
                              ),
                              align: "CENTER"
                            )
                          },
                          width: "NARROW"
                        ),
                        /* Display column for extra space between step names */
                        a!columnLayout(
                          showWhen: not(fv!isLast)
                        )
                      }
                    ),
                    a!columnLayout(
                      width: "EXTRA_NARROW"
                    )
                  },
                  spacing: "NONE"
                )
              }
            )
          },
          width: "WIDE"
        ),
        a!columnLayout()
      }
    )
  )
}

Check out this pattern at different widths and notice how the rich text dots in between each step don't appear on portrait tablet widths or narrower.

This adaptive pattern uses the if(), a!isPageWidth(), and a!forEach() functions to define two separate rich text displays depending on page width. These separate displays allow for many components to have different sizes, widths, and showWhen values so that the interface can look great at any page width.

Preview on the fit form factor: screenshot of the stamp steps pattern with the fit form factor

Preview on the phone form factor: screenshot of the stamp steps pattern with the phone form factor

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