Developing for the web isn’t as simple as taking a design and putting it on the Internet for everyone to see. Unlike a printed advertisement, which looks the same no matter who is viewing it, a website will vary for each individual.
There are many factors that can affect how a website looks: the device, the browser, or a variety of other things. The question is: can we develop a site to look perfect in every situation? While you may find people who claim they will make it pixel perfect, the truth is that you can’t make it look the same for everyone.
Although we strive to make a website look the best we possibly can for all viewers, there will always be someone who has an experience that isn’t optimal. It’s our job as developers to minimize these less-than-ideal experiences. The best way to do this is to know your audience.
With the growing use of mobile devices, our first job is to make sure the website looks and functions great on smaller screens. We do this through the use of responsive design or device detection. Knowing if the audience is more likely to be on an iOS or Android device allows us to specifically enhance the experience even further.
When it comes to the desktop, there’s a great divide between the number of people using Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer (IE). It can be easy to create the same experience on the first three, but IE likes to play by its own rules. While it’s always important to have a website function and look good in IE, we sometimes need to take it a step further if the audience is likely to be using an older version of IE. Not only does it need to look good, it needs to be our focus when the majority of the target audience is viewing the site this way.
There’s only one web, but there are many ways to view it, and it’s our responsibility to make each site a great experience for everyone. Being able to do this will increase the number of people we reach – and ultimately it will help our clients reach their communication goals.