How long will pixels matter?

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Lately there have been a few topics floating around the internet that have peaked my interest and got me thinking. I started to debate with myself about how long pixels will continue to matter as a measure of size and space in web design or if web design itself will be around for long. Certainly the idea of the web is here to stay and grow but I believe web sites themselves have a limited life span, one that we will be approaching sooner than we think.

Why the Web Site Will Go Away

One of the topics I hinted at earlier that has my interest is our immersion in technology. Believe it or not there are actually a few people out there who still write blogs to share meaningful thoughts and information. One of them is Finch, and his recent post “Where the Interface Ends” got me thinking about how long we might use the computer as our primary device to browse the web.

The internet is everywhere these days, our houses, vehicles and pockets on thousands of different devices. As computing technology continues to grow the average computer user no longer needs a desktop and the laptop is getting outdated as well. Sure, designers and people who use powerful software for a living still need computers but what about average, everyday web browsing? We can do that on our phone, our iPad, game console, TV and our hoverboards (not over water though).

Web sites are already starting to fall out of favor, being replaced by applications that prove to be more flexible and usable on these devices that don’t have a keyboard and mouse attached. All of the sudden spacing becomes more about percentages and less about how many columns we are going to need to use up on our 960 pixel grid.

Getting Flexible

The other topic that is gaining momentum online is the idea of flexible images and fluid layouts. Layouts that shift based on the space they are allowed. Certainly flexibility is going to be key for a design that needs to be displayed on any number of devices all with different shapes and sizes.

Any design that is truly flexible can not rely solely on pixels as a form of measurement. A 20 pixel gutter may look fine on my computer monitor but how does that translate to my phone? How does it look on my TV? What if we really want to think outside of the box and say how does that look on my table, wall, mirror, or windshield? What about when my 72ppi screen becomes a 300ppi screen or higher?

I have no doubt that the web will soon outgrown the browser as we know it today as it well should. The browser should be the user, not the software and our interface will continue to grow into the things we interact with every day. As the technology evolves so too will web designers, shifting to experience designers to encompass the larger scope of the web.

As designers it has always been a part of our job description to keep up with the changing online landscape. So will we be ready to take the leap away from the computer browser we fight with and fall in love with every day? Are we open to the new possibilities of a web without the constraints of pixels and screen sizes? Only time will tell.

2 Responses to “How long will pixels matter?”

  1. Sarah K

    Interesting viewpoint. I think there’s definitely some validity to what you’re saying, but I’m not sure how immediate that kind of a switch is going to be.

    As much as all of the new technology is spreading like wildfire, there will still be a large amount of people who stick to the conventional methods — either due to budget or because they prefer it. Look at how long it’s taken before we can finally rest a bit easier, without having to worry about too many people still using IE 6. :) Not to mention all of the computer gamers out there who still need desktops to run their high-graphics driven games.

    You are right that we’re going to have to factor in a lot more different situations for websites to work on, though — and I have a feeling this variety is going to keep growing on a fairly constant basis. I just think that pixels are still going to matter for a long time, because no matter how many options there are, there will always be some people still using systems that work well with a pixel grid.

    I’m curious about the point you made about the browser we know today being outgrown. Care to elaborate a bit? :)

    Anyway, like your site and blog. :)

    Reply
    • Jason Gross

      Sarah,

      Thanks for your comment. In regards to outgrowing today’s browser, what I mean is that web browsers such as IE, Firefox, Chrome, etc. are built with a desktop monitor, keyboard, and mouse in mind. My Playstation allows me to easily navigate a virtual world and do battle with people in realistic settings without much thought yet looking up a video on youtube using the PS3 web browser is a complete pain. This is because modern web browsers were not made for touch screen devices, remote controls, or game controllers.

      Almost every new interactive technology connects to the internet these days so the web will always be a relevant place to gather information from. However, the way that this information is displayed on your TV, cell phone, game console, car dashboard, or other device needs to be taken out of the browser. Each system will have a way to display the web to us that is best for its own parameters and I believe we need to adapt our design to accommodate that instead of the other way around.

      Reply

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