23 April 2008

When perfect is not perfect

I must recommend this post by Marcus Alexander. He moves the argument against pixel perfection - which I have already talked about in a previous post - forwards.

It is my belief that achieving cross browser pixel perfection across a wide range of different browsers costs a project a disproportionate amount of effort and distracts interface developers from the truly important aspects of a website which should be perfect. I am talking here about minor differences, generally related to the rendering of standard elements - form fields for instance.

We should be aiming for valid markup, high quality well organised CSS and unobtrusive object oriented JavaScript - we should never have JavaScript errors. We should be working towards best practices and we should be implementing web standards wherever possible.

We should be listening to what our clients want and delivering a high quality solution which successfully addresses the problems the client wants solved.

However, we should not be expected to work around every single minor layout issue or to change system defaults. Users understand how their default system controls work, they are inherently usable and accessible. A user also does not care if a bit of a text is a few pixels out.

Lets take an example from another aspect of life - television. Television producers will ensure that their program is executed perfectly with a fantastic script, perfect camera work, flawless sound etc. However, if you are viewing a program being broadcast in wide screen on a non-wide screen television, you will miss part of the picture - the edges are removed to fit onto the television. This is a good example as the producer can decide which part of the picture gets cut off.

I must re-iterate however, that it is vital to produce high quality work which conforms to industry best practices and is accessible to as many users as possible. There is a big difference between accessible to all users and perfect for all users.

As Marcus states, no end user of the website is going to be aware of small differences between browsers - and nor should they be. They will only be unhappy if the website does not operate or is so poorly laid out as to be unusable on their browser of choice.

I am not suggesting that anything will do. I am suggesting quite the opposite. We need to be perfect in most things. But as long as the differences are small, the basic site layout is not compromised and the full website is usable to all, achieving pixel perfection does not produce the returns its cost surely demands.

1 comment:

Adam said...

100% agreed. We simply need to educate rather than "perfect-pixelate". Oooo i rhymed.