when designers clash with the universality of the web…

Making design decisions on the web is sometimes like choosing colors for use in a brochure written in braille, about blindness, for the blind. Making the right choice of colors may be of some importance – even in cases like this, but it may not have much of an impact on the person reading it.

Many designers don't seem to realize – or they choose to ignore –  the difference between static or functional design in “the real world”, and the creation of dynamic design-suggestions for the many media, and end-user needs, on the universal world wide web.

Attempts at “print-like design”, “text-font control” and “pixel perfection” simply don't work well, if at all, on the web. They never did before, and they never will in the future. Still, thousands keep on spitting such non-working solutions out onto the web every day, and pride themselves on jobs well done. What a joke.

The situation isn't improved by the complete lack of understanding of – and often also complete lack of interest in –  how the web works, amongst a high number of web designers' clients. Non-practical, and sometimes really stupid, requirements put forward by clients, most often results in non-practical, overcomplicated and often dysfunctional web designs.

the designer wants to be in control…

The wish to be in control is what's driving most of the dysfunctional part of web design. Of course: the whole concept of “being in control” is completely misunderstood when one apply rules and experiences from a limited number of media onto a multi-media field like the universal web.

Self-imposed limitations don't help anyone, and designers who choose to master only a limited set of design-tools and rules and apply them everywhere, are unable to be in control of anything web-related.

The answer is not to give up control (as some are suggesting), but to learn more and to master more tools. We can only make intelligent choices about which tools and methods to use, or not to use, in each case, when we understand all available tools and methods in depth.

The web a designer faces every day doesn't work “this way or that way”. It works, and has to work, in a multitude of ways at the same time. That's what makes web design so different from other design-professions, as all design-decisions on one level will have an impact on all the other levels a completed web design has to perform on.

Most web pages won't have to perform optimally on all levels and in all media, since their content and purpose are directed towards a particular audience on one, or a few, level(s) and media. Also: being harder to access on one or more levels, doesn't necessarily mean they aren't accessible.
However, if a web page completely loses its ability to perform and/or prevents access on any one of the levels/media, because of design-decisions made on/for another level/media, then its design is truly dysfunctional.

designers are only adding design-suggestions…

Designing for the web can be a bit frustrating for some designers, since we can't really design anything on the web and expect the end user to see and experience it as designed. The fact is: we're not really designing anything – only suggesting how our creations should appear and function.

That all designs are depending on User Agents, browsers, or “that thing we use to download internet” are not well enough understood by most web designers. Most web designers think in static surfaces and pages, and there really aren't any static surfaces and pages on the web – only data and a multitude of User Agents.

What we think of as “a web page”, is just a presentation of data made by a browser on-the-fly, based on design-suggestions and user-options.

See the difference between design-suggestions and user-options? It means the end-user is in control – regardless of whether he, or she, knows how to make use of that control, or not. Advice: don't rely on ignorance amongst end-users.

Designers have no control whatsoever, regardless of what we may think, want, or try while designing. Not a single bit of our design-suggestions may get through to the end-user. Web designs are nothing but a bunch of illusions – although quite convincing ones at times.

real web designers at work…

Knowledgeable and creative web designers can design almost anything on the web and make it work, because they know their, and the end-users', tools – the User Agents –  and how they work. Good web designers work with the universality of the web – not against it.

Of course it doesn't always work properly or as intended, even if the designer is very good at what he, or she, is doing. The curse of bad browsers and dysfunctional software, is enough to make the best designer pretty frustrated at times.

Nothing to become frustrated about. Again: we should know the tools, but not let them control our design process. Those who design browsers can clean up their own acts – after all: they created those dysfunctional tools to begin with.

Many creators of User Agents are also represented in the organisation responsible for the creation of web standards – the W3C. They should follow up those standards to the letter, before even thinking about blaming designers for not fixing their bugs.

We will always have to deal with bad browsers – and even bad standards. We should however keep on designing for the universal web, and just save users of bad browsers from the worst tool-related bugs and weaknesses, as part of a normal design-process.


The web clearly isn't hampered only by bad browsers – as if that wasn't bad enough. The web is also hampered by a crowd of bad designers, trying to control and reduce its universality so it fits into their limited design-world.

My opinion may not matter much to those self-limiting designers, but neither do their definitions of the term “design” have any effect on me – and I hate limitations.

We all have to make choices concerning our lives and professions, or we will be left without choices one day. The latter option is too much of a limitations for my taste, so I make my choices while I keep on acquiring knowledge on whatever subject that catches my interest.

I think I'll keep on developing my skills regarding all aspects of designing for the universal – and unlimited –  world wide web, and leave to other designers to create their own future – and/or downfall. It's their choice to make.

sincerely  georg; sign

Hageland 09.jul.2007
last rev: 10.aug.2007


Web designs are nothing but a bunch of illusions – although quite convincing ones at times.— Georg

Advice: don't rely on ignorance amongst end-users.— Georg

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