The Details That Matter, by Kevin Potts

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away, the graphic arts industry was populated by full-time illustrators, production assistants and compositors. With only composing sticks for laying out type, straight edges for defining grids, a human proofer to catch spelling mistakes and an arsenal of X-acto blades for making edits, these guys lived and breathed detail. Mistakes were costly. It was a trade position that required lengthy apprenticeship; job security depended on getting all of the little things right.

While many of the tactile skills needed for our new generation of PC-based web design and development are radically different, a critical eye for detail is as relevant as ever. In fact, because of the lower cost of entry and increasing commoditization of design, that eye for detail is not only necessary for staying afloat in the profession, but a requirement for success.

The functional details are different than the ones with which our forefathers wrestled. Most of us do not own goggles to prevent spray adhesive from getting in our eyes or loupes to gauge dot gain at a press check. We do, however, have to deal with the endearing idiosyncrasies of browsers; we all run into the same double margin bug and inconsistent JavaScript support. These are quantitative, documented issues. Good website builders like you and I avoid these altogether simply by writing better code. But the details that can kill a project faster than a fly against a windshield are more subversive: the ones that, in hindsight, should have been blindingly obvious.

It’s never just about design…

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