Using `width` and `height` attributes on responsive images

Using `width` and `height` attributes on responsive images

Having green web vitals is no longer nice to have. Rather, with recent Google's algorithm's changes, it's became a necessity to pay close attention to how our site performs. Unless, of course, you like your anonymity and would rather not deal with those pesky site visitors; which, I suppose, is perfectly fine too. To each his own.

On the off chance, though, that you actually care about your SEO, you might have come upon a pretty peculiar problem, which I've had a run in with recently. After many years, it is now again recommended to use width and height attributes on images, to reduce - at least slightly - CLS.

<img src="kitten.png" width="800" height="600" alt="Internet is for cats, just like this one" />
Notice the lack of units.

It is fine and perfectly easy thing to do - as long as you are dealing with images that have a fixed dimensions set, and take exactly the same amount of space on each device and responsive view you have. But what if you have to deal with truly responsive images? For example, an image that:

  • on mobiles has 100% available width;
  • on small tablets has 75% available width;
  • on normal tablets has 500px width;
  • on small desktops has 720px width;
  • and on normal desktops and up, has 800px width.
    (max-width: 700px) 100vw,
    (max-width: 980px) 75vw,
    (max-width: 1365px) 50rem,
    (max-width: 1919px) 72rem,
    kitten_200x150.jpg 200w,
    kitten_305x229.jpg 305w,
    kitten_400x300.jpg 400w,
    kitten_580x435.jpg 580w,
    kitten_720x540.jpg 720w,
    kitten_800x600.jpg 800w,
    kitten_960x720.jpg 960w,
    kitten_1420x1065.jpg 1420w"
  alt="Internet is for cats, just like this one"
I'm not pasting any CSS here, but we should keep it in mind as another layer of complexity.

How would you deal with it? Which values should go into the width and height attributes?

The answer is quite surprising – it doesn't matter.

In most all cases it is perfectly OK to use original image dimensions. Because what is really important for browsers is the aspect ratio. So, as long as you keep it true with the original dimensions, it shouldn't cause any issues.

Unless you need to cater to veeeery old browsers - the kind that would actually use width and height to determine how exactly images should be loaded. If that is the case, than it might be a good idea to consider carefully, just what you want to put there.

And that's also confirmed by, where we read:

Modern browsers now set the default aspect ratio of images based on an image's width and height attributes so it's valuable to set them to prevent layout shifts. Thanks to the CSS Working Group, developers just need to set width and height as normal (...) and the UA stylesheets of all browsers add a default aspect ratio based on the element's existing width and height attributes


When working with responsive images, srcset defines the images you allow the browser to select between and what size each image is. To ensure <img> width and height attributes can be set, each image should use the same aspect ratio.

Oh, and by the way - while a good starting point, in many cases setting width and height alone won't be even close to getting rid of CLS caused by images. Some helpful tips and tricks I learned recently just for such cases – coming soon.

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