Grid-based web design, especially the 960 grid system, has become incredibly popular among graphic designers. And, accordingly, the trend has also been met with criticism. Determining whether to fashion your designs to a grid isn’t a simple choice of preference, but a careful consideration you should take for each individual client. To help you decide, you should first learn the pros and cons of designing to a grid.
Pros of grid-based design
A uniform layout is natural to the human eye, which makes it easier for users to find the information they need. A grid provides clear content separation and organization. The clean layouts associated with most grid-based designs make the entire website more attractive to most users.
Grid-based designs make it easy to swap content for maximum flexibility. When you design to a grid, you can easily change small portions of your web page without disrupting the entire design.
Easy site additions
Websites designed to a grid have an established layout, which makes adding new pages and features a cinch. You’re bound to certain “rules” of any particular design, which makes maintaining a uniform site-wide visual appearance that much easier.
A grid-based layout can easily transfer to mobile devices, so you don’t have to create a separate design or template for phones and tablets. With some coding tricks, you can hide content that won’t fit on devices using a grid-based design.
Cons of grid-based design
Some argue that grid-based designs stifle designer creativity. The established boundaries of grids, they say, make it difficult for designers to create unique custom designs.
Loss of brand identity
By that same measure, adopting a universally accepted grid layout (such as the 960 grid) could jeopardize your ability to employ site-wide branding.
Even though grid-based design is known for its clean organization, end-users might not resist the temptation to pack too much content into your modules or boxes. This can lead to clutter, which defeats the purpose of designing to a grid in the first place.
Steep learning curve
Creating a flexible, responsive grid-based design from scratch, complete with advanced HTML5 and CSS3, can be a daunting task for graphic designers – and even more so when they’re designing templates made for CMS platforms such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla.
It’s not difficult to counter the arguments against grid-based web design. Creative people will find a way to make their designs their own, and in fact being “bound” by a grid can inspire even greater creativity. The same goes for brand identity; get creative with your fonts, image placement, headers, backgrounds and other design elements to make your website design stand out. Educate end-users on avoiding cluttered designs, or institute built-in “read more” teasers to limit content. And as for learning curves, if you don’t know how to code your design then hire someone to do it for you. It’s the most efficient way to work anyway.
Overall, grid-based systems make websites more user-friendly, and this is important for marketing, traffic, usage and ultimate revenues. That’s why designing to a grid is often the best option. Not every project should be designed to a grid, but most websites will benefit from a grid-based design.
What do you think? Is grid-based web design the best? Let us know in the comments.