How to resize element with JavaScript

Published: · Reading time: 3 min

JavaScript has a native and easy-to-use API to listen for element resize. ResizeObserver is a modern approach to handle element resize.

However, depending on your requirements and UI behavior you may want to consider using one of the following approaches for handling element resize:

  1. ResizeObserver
  2. Resize EventListener
  3. CSS media queries

ResizeObserver API

The most optimal way to listen for element resize is the ResizeObserver API. Unlike the window resize event that always listens for the whole window viewport resizing, the ResizeObserver will only report changes to a target element if it has changed.

const navbarResizeHandler = function (entries) {
  for (let entry of entries) {
    console.log(entry)
    // entry object properties:
    // borderBoxSize
    // contentBoxSize
    // contentRect
    // devicePixelContentBoxSize
    // target
  }
}

const navbarResizeObserver = new ResizeObserver(navbarResizeHandler)
const navbar = document.querySelector(".navbar")

navbarResizeObserver.observe(element)

Use this approach for single HTML elements that you wish to react to resize. It is more optimal than using a window resize event. E.g. you have a navigation bar element with some items in it, and you want to collapse it to the hamburger button if it doesn’t fit into the viewport anymore.

ResizeObserver browser support: https://caniuse.com/resizeobserver

Resize EventListener

For a more generic approach, you can always use the window resize event. This event will fire every time the document viewport (window) has been resized.

function handleWindowResize (e) {
  // handle resizing
}

window.addEventListener("resize", handleWindowResize)

One of the problems with this approach is performance. However, there is a way to optimize the resize event so it’s not called every time the window resizes. You can implement a throttle or debounce.

A throttle means the function will be called once per N amount of time. Any additional function calls within the specified time interval are ignored.

A debounce means function will be called after N amount of time passes since its last call.

Use resize event for when you need to handle global changes to the viewport size and not just separate elements.

Window resize event browser support: https://caniuse.com/mdn-api_window_resize_event

CSS media queries

A worthy mention would be CSS media queries. You might want to reconsider using JavaScript resize at all, quite possible that the desired result can be achieved with CSS.

@media screen and (min-width: 600px) {
  /* styles for devices wider than 600px */
}

This approach is not as dynamic as a JavaScript one, but you don’t waste any resources running script. So instead of toggling a class name with JavaScript, you can specify a breakpoint and add CSS rules to match your case. On window resize these rules will be applied at a given breakpoint.

CSS Media Queries browser support: https://caniuse.com/css-mediaqueries

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