Want a perfect web design? Sorry, but you’re out of luck. There are some truly elegant, sleek, and awe-inspiring designs out there. But none are perfect.
Thankfully, I’ve never had a client who actually requested the “perfect” web design. I say thankfully, because deep down I understand – almost on a cellular level – that perfection in web design is a myth. More bluntly, human perfection is, in itself, ethereal (as a cowboy might say, you may as well try to “rope the wind”). I personally like minimalism – websites with large fonts that mix both serif and sans-serif, white space, actual words that make sense (i.e. – good copywriting), etc. But that’s my preference, and it may not be everyone’s.
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
You see, I’ve worked with enough clients to know that my own sensibilities are not shared by everyone. Hence, Reason Number 1 that there is no such thing as “perfect” when it comes to web design, to wit: “my” perfect isn’t “your” perfect.
Let’s look at some more, and just agree to disagree right from the start what “perfect” actually is. Off the top of my head, here are the “reasons” that web design perfection is a mythical beast.
1. My perfect isn’t your perfect
Perhaps some form of “limited context” perfection really IS possible. Maybe I can make a website that, for me, is perfect (full disclosure: I can’t). Or maybe I can design one that, for you, is perfect. But it definitely won’t be perfect for both of us, so the designer and the client are naturally “at odds” at times. Not that this is a problem, per se – some creative differences are healthy – and necessary – when trying to design something that is both functional and beautiful.
2. There’s no such thing as perfection among human beings
Without delving into a metaphysical conversation about the nature of humans (and dusting off the old philosophy texts from my days at a liberal arts college), let’s just leave this as it is. We’re human…the very definition of “imperfect”. So it follows, naturally, that as imperfect beings we cannot produce perfection. I’m sure there’s a logical fallacy in there somewhere…but I’m going to run with this one.
3. If it’s perfect now, it won’t be tomorrow
Talk about a moving target. The “perfect” first website I designed in 1998 – and I really loved it, and slept with it under my pillow at night – could be the punchline of a joke now. Of course, you won’t have to wait over 20 years for obsolescence to kick in. It could be as short as minutes, hours, or days. The pace of improvements and changing trends in website design is breakneck. That’s why I like to adhere to a more classic vision when designing websites, i.e. – white space, nice fonts, clean lines and, overall, simplicity. Gimmicks come and go, but elegance is forever.
4. Perfect from what perspective?
508 compliance? Graphic design? Copy? Display on a [insert hyper-specific device here]? Anyone who’s ever put together a CSS hack for Internet Explorer understands what I’m saying here. I know quite a bit of my audience is going to view my websites on mobile devices, but there’s still a huge chunk that will view it on a full-sized monitor. Some will use a Mac. Some will use a PC. And as a designer, it’s my job to mitigate any “risks” associated with different view screens, browsers, and operating systems. But that doesn’t mean the site will look exactly the same in every situation, which means that “pixel perfect” just isn’t going to happen (despite the over-usage of the term and the neat and tidy alliteration).
5. We’re almost entirely incapable of thinking in terms of “less”
This goes back to my own preference for clean, simplistic websites. For me, less really is more. But “less” is not a natural thought for anyone. The very ethos of Insourced is that we help people drive their mission forward, hence the tagline “More Mission.” Less is not typically a good thing, but for website design, I’m of the firm belief that it just may be. With a plethora of flip boxes, resource-hogging sliders, bloated code and the like, I don’t see a whole lot “less” on the Web, but for an example of a website that just goes for simplicity (and damn the trends), have a look at A List Apart. I’ve loved this site, in all its iterations, for many years.
6. Can it load faster by doing [insert action here]? If so, it’s not perfect.
That answer to the question above is “yes,” it can load faster, and the design can be responsible for that faster load time. I’m just going to put a bow on this one and stop right here.
7. What’s your audience? Was it designed for them or you?
Web designers will sometimes pull their hair out over client requests when they diverge from their own vision. There’s no need to do this (the client is always right, as they say), but there is something to be said for having one’s creative vision stepped all over. The same holds true for the client having a website designed according to what THEY like instead of what the audience is most likely to enjoy or respond to. Before the “perfect design” can even get underway (destined to fail in that “perfection,” in case you haven’t noticed yet), an understanding of what the site is supposed to do is in order. That requires an understanding of the Voice of the Customer (VOC).
Design a site for yourself and ignore your audience and you may as well just give up, because the point of the public-facing website is to engage the public, to serve the client’s specific audience, and to do so for the broadest possible target audience possible. Beware when you start designing for yourself rather than your audience – take a step back and ask “does this help my audience? Will they like this?” If not, give up that notion in the final design.
For me, those are just the primary reasons that perfection in the web design context is unattainable. There are probably dozens more, but for designers who will beat their heads against the wall seeking perfection, or the rare client who may expect it, it is, alas, a mythical beast.