How to design for hi-res displays

Web design specialist Christopher Schmitt has a positive response to the question of whether we should be factoring hi-res displays in to our design methodologies: “We used to have browser wars. Now we have tablet wars. The marketplace will only become more saturated with hi-res displays. This must be addressed, because the issue won’t go away.” And he’s not alone. “The fact is, practically every smartphone and tablet now has a hi-res screen, and desktops aren’t far behind,” agrees JavaScript guru Thomas Fuchs. “But wait too long to respond and you’ll be left behind.”

Not everyone is as gung-ho. “I don’t like the idea of designing a second set of hi-res images for Retina and using JavaScript to serve them based on the receiving device,” complains Happy Cog founder Jeffrey Zeldman. “That feels like a giant step back to the days of ‘best viewed with …’ That’s not what standards-based design was supposed to be about.” Interaction designer Wells Riley notes that tech heads can be “caught in a bubble, especially with new Retina MacBooks on their desks”, but admits that it could be time to “invest brainpower in adopting a new technique”.

For designer and author Andy Clarke the argument is simpler: “If you’re a web professional, you owe it to clients and users to make your site look its best on every device you can. That means designing and developing for high-resolution displays.” He adds that the one-way trend is toward higher resolution and, like Fuchs, Clarke reckons designers should by default add hi-res support to new projects and upgrade old ones when possible. “It’s something you can’t leave to chance,” says Treesaver co-founder Roger Black. “Some sites got lucky, but then you see hapless bastards sending magazine apps as a book of PNG files, [and] text dithered so badly that you can’t read it …”

Steps to hi-res

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