If you've designed more than a few sites for people, you've almost certainly heard a comment that sounds something like this: “That would look better if you could move that graphic over about 2 millimeters to the right.” This attitude is based on a fallacy. Specifically that you can design a web page that will look identical and pixel perfect no matter where you view it. This is most often heard by two different types of people:
- Print designers
These are the clients who have never worked in the web before, or have only designed brochures and pamphlets, items that are printed and will look the same as long as the printer uses the correct combination of inks. These people expect web pages to look the same no matter what the conditions are: browsers, monitors, color-depth, all those issues are seen as trivial and surmountable to the print designer, because in the print world they are.
- Graphic designers
These are the designers who work primarily with graphics. While they may understand more about how colors are distorted on browsers, they are also often more picky about spacing and location. The graphic designer is the person who you will hear arguing against using CSS for font styling ("use a graphic instead"), because you can't be 100% sure 100% of the time that the customer will have the font they prefer. Plus, they will argue, with a graphic you can be absolutely sure that the spacing, leading and tracking will be correct.
Web Design Reality
The graphic and print designers complaining about your web designs are professionals and they do know what they are talking about. But the reality is that the web is not print and it's not a great big graphic. And trying to force it to be that to serve the needs of these types of designers is a bad idea.
- Color Color on the web is problematic for the print designer. While it's much more reliable than it used to be, there are still problems. If you use a laptop the colors you see are much more washed out than you might see on a CRT. The same is true for LCD flat-panel displays. And have you ever seen what many of the cheaper projection units do to colors? Reds turn brown, blues turn black, greens and yellows turn muddy grey and worse. And don't get me started on palm devices like PDAs and phones – their color (if they have it) is often rudimentary. Now, if you're designing a web page for yourself, you can pick colors that work for just you. But most of us are designing pages for hundreds or hundreds of thousands of readers. We can't control what type of monitor they're viewing our pages with, so we need to design using colors that are fairly basic and realize that they might not look as nice on other screens.
- Fonts The graphic designer who says that fonts are impossible on the web is correct. After all, there is no way to guarantee that everyone who views your website will have the same fonts. However, if you use relative lengths you can be sure that whatever font you use, it will look correct relative to the rest of the page, and it will be accessible. Because, the reality of web design is that unless you're planning to make every page of your site one large graphic, your page will have text on it. And that text can be manipulated by the readers of your site. Don't believe me? In Internet Explorer, go to the
Viewmenu and choose a different
Text Size. In Firefox and Safari click
Ctrl -. Many people browse with font sizes larger than the “standard” and if your site fights that, you'll just be annoying them.