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Designing for the Web

17th January 2006Web DesignNo Comments

An article in Digital Web Magazine, published on January 9, 2006 by Joshua David McClurg-Genevese, entitled Designing for the Web had this to say:

“In my opinion, the vast majority of constraints in a Web-based environment are brought about because of the limits of human interaction with technology. ”

From a web designer’s point of view I would say that the majority of constraints in  designing for a web-based environment are brought about due to the lack of limits and standards in technology itself. 

Too many platforms, too many browsers, too many devices all conspire to ensure that a design will not necessarily look the same to all users.  Although we try hard with hacks and work-arounds to ensure compatibility, it is an impossible task and often the web designer is forced to default to designing for the largest audience possible based on the target market and his client’s own preferences.

Years ago during the Netscape – Explorer browser wars, standards for the different browsers and how they would display particular options deviated and currently there are still differences between browsers with Microsoft’s Explorer browser still the main villain in this story although this is supposed to finally be fixed in the forthcoming version of Windows.  This deviation between browsers (although Netscape is pretty much gone, Firefox the new kid on the block, is a close cousin) directly accounts for most of the hacks and workarounds that must be applied to most designs today.  What happens when Explorer finally gets rid of those last few differences and embraces the actual W3C standards? Well, it will take a couple of years for it all to shake-down to the masses.  That is where the different platforms and versions comes in.  If you view the browser stats in the Designing for the Web Article mentioned above, you will see that 2 versions of Windows Explorer and Firefox account for 90% of the users.  When the new Windows comes out, upgrading will be a slow and lengthy process as always and it will take time for it to spread out to all users. 

The only way to eliminate the constraints that web designers currently face in designing at least for the different browsers would be to go back in time to the original Netscape – Explorer split and make the two parties shake hands and agree to a common set of standards.  While it may get easier, it will never entirely go away.  This is part of the challenge of web design and what keeps it always interesting and new. 

I enjoyed the Designing for the Web article, it is a good read for beginning web designers and a must-read for clients who are getting ready to launch their first website.