Designing for the Web

Please note: This post was written 7 years ago, which is an age in programming terms, so please don't treat this as gospel! I'll be updating all posts soon enough, but if you'd especially like this one to be updated let me know.

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When you sit down at your computer, or with a sketch-pad and pen, to design a website, you are essentially designing for the web. But what does this actually mean? From a designer's perspective like mine, it simply means that I take a number of things into consideration (on top of the many fundamentals of design that is). Firstly the sizes of elements on my page. I generally tend to design sites with an overall content width off no more than 900px - this stops my websites falling of the edges of low resolution screens (the maximum width for this is about 1000px by the way). So this constrains me to make sure that I don't create something visible only to those with huge screens. Next I consider things like layout and various other details. But more importantly, something I do almost automatically these days, is cater for just what any given web-browser can do.

Now this doesn't mean that every time I come to design, I think about how it will look in IE7? Instead, I think of things like shadows, glows and other seemingly-complex design techniques. Furthermore I consider the fonts that I use. This is something I tend to do when designing templates for say WordPress for example. I know that all my titles and text has to be interchangeable, so creating the finest looking header in Photoshop may be useless when it comes to converting it into a website. The same goes for things like content boxes. As a designer you have to consider the way in which users will interact with such things and understand that those boxes could be filled with almost anything.

And so from this singular perspective you could say that designing for the web has stunted my creative flair. Or has it?

Personally I don't think so, or at least not for the majority of designers. Those designers who are just starting out, who have yet to find their own style will possible fall into this group of people who constantly design the same style of websites. But as web technologies advance and as more options become available to us, surely we are able to create more stunning designs that may at first, not strike you as a website. So is that the solution? Don't set out to design for the web, but just design something - anything, and then work around it? No. For a plethora of reasons, the thing would fall apart. Things like usability and interaction have to be considered.

I guess what I am trying to say is this. Don't sit down at your computer to design a website, sit down to create an experience. I think that figuring out how we are going to create a website can come later, but if you sit down to create an experience around a design, and keep the fact that it will become a website at the back of your mind, I believe that you will create the most stunning designs.

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