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Web sense

Or why the web deserves your well-founded consideration1. I think that consideration often lacks. Give me a few paragraphs to expand on this.

The web is a different beast altogether. This should be evident by now, thanks to the several visionaries who eloquently put this concept to words: a great example is John Allsopp’s A Dao of Web Design, an article that has, it should be noted, made a huge impact on the way I work. I started treating the web as a different medium, or was at least more aware of it. It is pretty simple, this whole “medium concept”. Television broadcasts are (pretty much) strictly defined when it comes to the content. Radio content is pretty clearly restricted. Print is also fixed in terms of the content for the user. The internet is a medium in the sense that the concept of a newspaper is so too, i.e. it transports content. And then, like in an exhausting game of Whac-A-Mole, issues start popping up. Like rodents. Errr. So much for that comparison.

If we look at “medium” in a different way2, we see that the computer is the medium, because so is the physical television set, right? Well, that does change things! Analogue television sets these days deal with two big standards for outputting the content, PAL and NTSC. These standards differ in line count and frame rate. These are important things to keep in mind, these two differences. Now back to the moles in the computer story: restricting it to the internet alone, in a graphical web browser, a computer has to cope with typefaces, colours, screen resolution or window width, browser version, proxy-basedness, plug-ins that are either installed or missing… Need I go on? Almost everything is variable. This is where you come in.

There is an ongoing (often heated) discussion between designers for the web to either go fixed or liquid, this referring to the width of the content area. Fixed designs, so people argue, won’t break, and liquid designs, so they also argue, are hard to keep consistent over the range of popular platforms. Being a designer myself, I can understand this all, but I disagree. As a designer, you’re supposed to solve a problem. That’s your job. You solve problems. A problem could be the displaying of content (which would be true for, I’m ball-parkin’, 99.5% of the web?). Solving a problem is a responsibility. In this case, the responsibility means you’re supposed to let people enjoy the content. Keeping the whole different-computer-different-workings issue in mind, remember that those same people have their preferences. Very much so, I tell you. If one person just really likes MultiTorg Opera (okay, that is very unlikely), he’ll try and use that to see the content. You are responsible to let even these crazy people enjoy the content, in whatever sensible manner.

So you could see this as me simply saying you should take care of the audience, then dismissing that as “mere” good advice. It’s not about my advice here. It’s about treating users, people, treating them well. That sounds a bit emotional, but don’t dismiss it. Aim to please.

You may think the users should change, that the problem lies with them, not you, but all I’m saying is what I opened with: the web is a different beast altogether.

  1. Consideration: think about things and reason thyself. Rationalism exists for a reason (that pun was not intended, but I’m going to have to keep it here now!).
  2. My dictionary doesn’t seem to explain a lot of difference between the two approaches I take.

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(Rock out with Textile; it's what the cool people use!)