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The devil is in the details: every pixel matters

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Hisrael Anjo Pereira

Front-end Developer

25 mei 2018

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Pixel Perfect is an approach to front-end development that consists of translating design concepts to a live web page in a way that it looks exactly the same, respecting the designated measurements for each margin, border, padding and so forth. When comparing the design and the live page side to side, you shouldn’t be able to notice the difference, it has to look identical to the naked eye.

However, designers can’t specify the exact measurements for every single one of the huge variety of devices, browsers and screen sizes we have nowadays, so in a very practical way the layout has to be proportionally perfect, for when the screen changes it still remains faithful to the initial concept. In the words of developer Ruchi Goel, “[...] designing any element pixel perfect would mean that on scaling the design either up or down, it should still be crisp and clear.”

The importance of Pixel Perfect lies in the designer’s efforts to create a layout that is not only visual appealing but also engaging and compelling for the user. It is not only about the pixels, it is also colour, typography and even whitespace, taking into account the studies of new trends in design, ergonomy, accessibility and how the whole experience should work to meet the user’s expectations. But that can only be achieved with the aid of a front-end developer who sees the importance of taking that concept and bringing it to live accordingly. Most developers are mainly worried about code architecture, performance, scalability and such, and even though that is very important, the visual part is often underestimated and overlooked in the development process. If you think about it, it’s literally the job description for the developer: the design is a project specification just like the language or the platform it’ll be developed in, and it should be taken just as seriously.

But since the user should be the primary consideration, do they really care whether or not it matches the initial concept? Well, considering the fact that they will never sees the mockup that originated the web page, they can’t tell the difference. Still, on the other hand, sloppy and misaligned layouts make your page don’t look very reliable and that influences directly the user’s first impression and overall opinion about the website, specially because most users have a clear goal in mind when visiting a website or using an application, and a good design is created in order to simplify the way they are gonna reach that goal. Bear in mind that when the user interface is developed carelessly, it reflects poorly on the product’s image and in some cases also on its owner’s reputation. According to Creative Blog, “attention to detail in a user experience can be the difference between a satisfied user and an annoyed one”.

While some might argue it’s a waste of precious time to focus on pixel perfect, considering sometimes you have a short deadline and tons of more important features to implement, what’s the point of having a flawless attractive concept that won’t ever be translated to an actual web page? In fact, there are a couple of tools that allow designers to upload their mockups so that developers can easily inspect all the specifications of the page. Using a tool such as Avocode, Invision Inspect or Zeplin can actually reduce the time and efforts in the development by generating resources and style guides tailored to the aimed platform, giving you easy access to dimensions, positions, colour palettes and fonts specs, besides providing css snippets and the option to export assets.

So essentially, despite all the controversy that divides designers and developers with strong opinions on whether or not pixel perfect is important, the main purpose of building a website or web application is to bring something meaningful to the user, providing them the best experience. To accomplish that, the most important thing is to get the whole team working together, communicating well and sharing their insights. It is the developer who will bring it to life, yes, but designers should also keep in mind how the implementation is gonna work in the web, considering that the browser rendering is not the same in every engine, device and screen size. Of course it’s impossible to achieve 100% pixel perfect as nothing is absolutely perfect, but keep in mind that writing good quality code must include building the layout exactly as it was created to fit the user’s needs.

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