Web Design Requires Compromise

A fine artist's painting, which is not how web design is viewed.

Of course we want our web design to be amazing for all, but allow me to break the ice delicately and remind you of the importance of compromise. Wait, what? Yes – sit down with me for a moment, Golden Girls in the kitchen style, and let’s have a little chat about setting realistic expectations.

Here’s the thing: web design is not like a painting. It’s not like a brochure or a blender. In some cases it’s more like what comes out of a blender. (Wow I just cannot stop with the blender analogies, maybe it’s time for a smoothie break.) 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 how a website should flow, but you can never be 100% certain.

I know all about the problem of perfectionism rearing it’s ugly head. But if your company is already experiencing slumping sales and needs a boost, you don’t have time for that racket. You need to get plugged in and charged up, stat.

Web Design Has To Be Like Elastigirl‘s Suit: Ever Expanding

The thing you have to remember about a website’s display is that there are so many devices out there. At best, even your masterfully architected website design is going to be a slightly inconsistent (read: elastic) experience for some people. Have you considered users with screen reading software? What about those who have set up certain preferred font faces and font sizes for all their web browsing? You may find yourself resisting this breach of creative control. But I assure you, accessibility is a wonderful thing! If you start the entire project with the right mindset your artwork will have to budge only the right amount.

It’s an important concept to bring up because sometimes we want to treat interface design like a painting. Perhaps we had hoped to run this show like an art gallery. Maybe you wanted to make a statement in a very specific way, one that doesn’t allow for much wiggle room. 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.

Keeping Calm and Designing On

Things can get a little overwhelming for the control obsessed when many devices and rotations are thrown into the mix. When you find yourself frustrated that your web design can’t be tightly scripted, here are my words for you.

It’s going to be okay, there is no sense being a perfectionist. 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 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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