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Web Design is Full of Compromise

Creative artwork, mixed media / painting.

We all want everything to be great, and so allow me to break the ice delicately and suggest that compromise and focusing on your big goals are essential for web design projects.

Here’s the thing: a website design is not like a painting. It’s not like a brochure or a blender. Sometimes it’s more like what comes out of a blender. The catch here is that unlike all the items I just mentioned, web design cannot be delivered to your home in a cardboard box or viewed in a single carefully curated art gallery. It can’t be printed with tight color control and a reasonable expectation on how the receiver might pick it up and open it. Sure you can have ideas on what happens next, but you can never be 100% certain.

The thing you have to remember about a website is that there are so many devices and ways out there to interact with it, that even your masterfully architected website design is going to be a slightly inconsistent experience for some people. What if they have screen reading software or carefully selected font faces and font sizes for all their web browsing? Accessibility is a wonderful thing though your artwork will surely have to budge.

It’s an important concept to bring up because sometimes we want to treat interface design like a painting. We want to make a visual impact and a statement with the work, and impart a highly specific experience on the user. Well I do have some sour news for you then, which is that you ain’t gonna catch them all. Ouch!

Fine artists preparing their portfolio website seem to succumb to this trap a bit more than your average business who just wants to hang their digital shingle. This makes total sense, because impact and visual flow is quite literally what they are about.

If you find yourself very frustrated with the notion that the user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) can’t be tightly scripted for every conceivable device and rotation, here are my words for you.

It’s going to be okay, and there is no sense being a perfectionist about it. Plan for the most popular devices and do the best you can.

The important thing is that you get out there today and look good. The world is already used to the format of the internet and does not expect your website to be designed like a painting. Users find it completely normal when navigation is changed on their smartphones and moved to a predictable position. Don’t get upset about doing it “like everyone else does” because in this case that is website design convention, and it’s powerful stuff.

You’re going to need to compromise on the pixel perfect layout for every device. Identify what the bases are and cover them thoroughly. Don’t get caught up on minors. Your website is going to be just fine.

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