The web is not to print, but to scan

By | 2006-09-16

This week I have had a lot of dead time in the office (while waiting for the client’s answers), and I’ve been reading some web usability articles from Jakob Nielsen’s website. I have read almost every column he wrote, and I think I already knew most of the key issues (like colors for links, big fonts, etc). He writes using the common sense, so it’s quite easy to arrive to most of his thoughts on your own. But I’ve also discovered some interesting ideas, that are letting me think about it… and I want to comment one of them: We scan web pages, so we don’t need perfect design.

In the office I’m surrounded by a lot of graphic designers, who spend most of the time building “perfect” designs. “Pixel perfection”. Everything perfectly aligned. Later we spend a lot of time translating them to HTML and CSS, keeping these exact pixel measurements in every known browser. I see some of my coworkers spending a lot of time making CSS hacks to fix such small design problems (and becomimg proud of this). Is it really necessary? Internet is not a print medium, where everything has to be in a perfect position. Internet is a place to look for information, where we scan pages, quickly. Of course, the look & feel of a website is quite important, to help us to figure out at sight if this is a “good or believable” place. But it doesn’t matter if the menu is moved 1-pixel to the left if you visit it with Explorer instead Firefox. Because what the user really want is information, served in an easy way to find out.

Hey girl, you look so pretty, but do you have something inside your head? No? Then the most you can aspire is an one-night relation, and the next day he will not remember you. Sad but sadly usual.

Update: I see these ideas, concerning to avoid working on pixel perfect positions, over and over. The last time that I’ve seen them, it has been reading “A List Apart” lastest article: “12 Lessons for Those Afraid of CSS and Standards“, where the author refers to these ideas several times.