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You Can’t Please Everyone

Providing a pixel-perfect, wholly identical experience for each and every human being who tries to access your site would be impossible. There are simply far too many factors to consider.

On the technical side of things, you’ve got screen size, display density, CPU (central processing unit) speed, amount of RAM (random-access memory), sensor availability, feature availability, interface methods...breathe...operating system, operating system version, browser, browser version, plug-ins, plug-in versions, network speed, network latency, network congestion, firewalls, proxies, routers, and probably a dozen other factors my mind is incapable of plucking from the whirlwind of technological considerations.

And that doesn’t even take into account your users’ experiences interacting with your work.

When it comes to people, you have to consider literacy level, reading level, amount of domain knowledge, cognitive impairments such as learning disabilities and dyslexia, attention deficit issues, environmental distractions, vision impairment, hearing impairment, motor impairment, how much they understand how to use their device, how much they understand how to use their browser, how well-versed in common web conventions they are, and a ton of other “human factors.”

Every person is different, and everyone comes to the Web with their own set of special needs. Some needs develop over time and persist—blindness, for example. Others are transient, such as breaking your mousing arm. Still others are purely situational and dependent on the device you are using at the time and its technical capabilities or constraints.

Trying to devise one monolithic experience for each and every person to have in every context that considers every factor would be impossible. Given unlimited time and budget, you could probably make it happen, but how often do you get to work under those conditions?9 Designing for a monolithic experience is a form of arrogance—it assumes you will always know your users’ context and what’s best for them. In reality, you often know far less than you think you do.

And yet, Sir Tim Berners Lee—the guy who invented the World Wide Web—had a vision for a Web that was portable, capable of going anywhere.10 Was he delusional?

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