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Using Pixels for User Experience

VC3 Marketing

Remember the days when all online experiences were viewed in the standard 4:3 screen size? After desktop monitors gave way to laptops, tablets and mobile devices, the number of screen sizes mushroomed. In today’s wild west of options, if you aim only to please one class of devices, you’re limiting the experience of another.

Despite web design becoming infinitely more complicated, the evolution of code and devices has led to designs that automatically respond to the screen sizes on which they’re being viewed. Where websites were once designed to 960 pixels and then had content stripped out into a separate mobile site, we can now create responsive designs that retain a site’s intended experience without any loss of quality across devices.

In an effort to save time and minimize effort, some designers may fall back on the old habit of designing to a standard resolution. This is becoming more and more dangerous. While even the most web-savvy users probably don’t understand or notice the back end functionality of a website, the experience speaks volumes. Poorly presented designs, long lines or blocks of copy, and poor navigation overwhelm users and encourage them to leave. But there’s an even bigger crime- these designs fail to use screen real estate to make the user experience better.

In designing Cognito Forms, we wanted the information layout to work for the user by breaking the screen into two major areas. The first, the utility column, is always on the left and stays in place. It doesn’t get larger or change. Like a wrench on a tool bench, our user knows where it is, has it quickly in-hand and can get back to the real purpose: the right side of the screen. The right side of the screen, the work area, is why the user is here. We chose to expand the work area as the user’s screen size increases. By harnessing the additional pixels with purpose, we do more than improve user experience; we help them accomplish their task with greater ease and efficiency.

While we don’t know how much larger (or smaller) screens will get, it doesn’t really matter. We know devices will keep evolving with every passing year, and we’ll be as flexible as our screen sizes. What really matters? What’s on the screen and how well it works for the user. Everything else is gravy.