In Search of the Holy Grail

The Holy Grail, in web design terms, was first defined for me in an article on A List Apart:

“Three columns. One fixed-width sidebar for your navigation, another for, say, your Google Ads or your Flickr photos—and, as in a fancy truffle, a liquid center for the real substance. Its wide applicability in this golden age of blogging, along with its considerable difficulty, is what has earned the layout the title of Holy Grail.”

This is in fact the design layout that had already come (independently) to epitomise my own design ethos, by offering each viewer a site which fits into the screen area available. In most cases it remains so. However, both web standards and technologies are constantly evolving and it is necessary for the layout to evolve with them.

Like most enlightened designers the twin tenets of my design philosophy are accessability and usability. My personal interpretation of these is to provide the best user experience to the widest possible audience, where that audience comprises the target market of the website in question. To do this I look at industry statistics such as those provided by the The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) to determine the requirements of my target audience both now and in the near future. It is impossible to future-proof a design, but by analysing trends a designer can maximise the longevity of a design.

In terms of browsers I currently design for Internet Explorer 6 and 7, Firefox, Safari and Opera. Where conflicts arise in terms of cross-browser compatibility I go with the majority in terms of audience which as of October 2008 favours Internet Explorer (IE7 26.9%, IE6 20.2%) and Firefox(44.0%). Current browser statistics can be referenced at W3 Schools, although it is important to bear in mind that visitors to W3C may tend to be more sophisticated than the “average” user in terms of browser choice.

*This article is very much a work in progress and I will continue to update it as time allows.

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