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Is HD Web Design the Next Big Thing?

Published on March 30, 2012
Tags: Web Design London

We’re always interested to hear about new trends and ways of working in web design, so we were intrigued to see the buzz on Twitter and other social networking sites about the possibility of HD web design. This article provides an interesting overview of the idea and many people in the world of web design seem to have latched onto it.

The idea of HD web design has been around for a while and for many web users, it might already seem as though it is here – improving technology and a wealth of new devices has dramatically improved the web browsing experience over the past few years. However, when you compare website design to, say, HD television, you can see where the discrepancies lie.

A lot of this is to do with pixel density: currently, most web devices have a fairly low density, which means that web developers have been able to use fairly low resolution graphics but still get good results. This has been beneficial for cost and speed, since once you start using higher quality images, the system slows down and the images start to cost more.

However, as web-enabled devices have improved, this has started to become something of an issue. Modern smartphones, tablets and other platforms have increasingly good resolutions and pixel density. In theory, this is great for the web browsing experience, but when you consider the fact that many images used in web design are fairly low resolution, this starts to become a bit of a problem. It means that images that look great on a desktop aren’t necessarily displaying properly on other platforms.

The article mentioned above uses the iPhone4 as an example. The Retina screen that garnered so much attention when the phone was first launched boasts a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch, which is wonderful – but it’s a much higher density than most images currently on the web.  Apple might currently have most of the market cornered when it comes to the quality of its screen displays, but it won’t be that long before other manufacturers catch up – and this means that something is going to have to change.

This means that web design is going to have to adapt to the new ways of viewing images. If it doesn’t, websites will slow down considerably and costs are likely to rise as a result of the need for increasing hi-res, top quality images. There doesn’t need to be a crisis, though. There will inevitably be a period of adaption, but just as tech companies are able to offer devices for brilliant viewing experiences, web design is also able to offer tools to help web users make the most of those devices.

We have written recently about HTML5 and CSS3 are increasing the possibilities for designers and making it easier to include more complicated graphics in websites. For example, utilising these tools properly means that when a web user zooms in on a particular aspect of a site, they are much less likely to see a drop in the quality of the image.

Photos are likely to continue to be an issue, but the article mentioned at the start of this piece offers some ideas for how to deal with this – at least for the time being. Essentially, since photos are different to other types of web graphic, they can’t always be manipulated using tools such as HTML5 and CSS3 in the same way that other graphics can. This means that designers are going to have to get used to using different versions of images for different types of screen so that the quality of the image – and speed at which it loads – is not detrimentally affected by the pixel density of the display.

Overall, it may have been a while coming, but as tech developments come thick and fast, it seems as though HD web design is a reality that we are all going to have to adapt to sooner or later. Just as responsive web design has recently burst onto the scene after bubbling away in the background for a while, HD web design seems to be an idea whose time has just about come. It will naturally present challenges, but we’ve seen what internet-enabled devices are capable of and we’ve seen how good they can be, so this is one challenge we’re looking forward to meeting.

By Chelsey Evans

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