You can't design Web pages on a Mac!

by Joe Gillespie — Sep 1, 2000

I was visiting a hosting company the other day and was being given 'the grand tour'. They had wall-to-wall servers, massive black things with lights flashing all over them, and that deep, pervasive smell that you get from electronic equipment in confined spaces.

Then I was shown into to the 'Web design department'. It seems that part of their remit as a hosting company is to offer 'Web design' to their customers. Here, several people were sitting at PCs and in the process of producing Web pages.

I just happened to mention to my guide that I used a Mac for my Web design work. "Oh, no, you can't use a Mac to design Web pages", he insisted and continued to mutter something about all his customers and most of the surfing public using PCs.

Well, there is a lot of truth in that. Web pages designed on a Mac can look quite different on a PC. The only time you can be completely blasé about designing on a Mac is if you are producing a site exclusively for Mac users. It probably is more difficult to design mass market Web pages on a Mac!

He continued on about the lack of software for the Mac and all the Web technologies that were only available on PCs. This is true too, I have to admit. The new PC version of GoLive 5 has database integration tools that are not available in the Mac version and the same is true of several other programs too.

Then there was the old story about how expensive Macs are and how you get a much more highly specified PC (and all the trimming) for the same price as a Mac G4. I can't really argue with that either, although the purchase price of a computer, like many other things, is only a part of the story - I expect to get good use out of any computer I buy for a couple of years. I expect to earn its cost in a couple of days.

So why would anyone in their right mind use a Mac to create Web pages?

Personally, I don't think it matters all that much. If somebody produces dull and unimaginative Web pages, it's not because of the computers they use.

Because I come from an ad agency background, and have used Macs since 1984, of course I am more comfortable using them than PCs. I do have a PC, but while its modem and my Psion organiser are busy fighting over COM ports and interrupt numbers like spoiled children, I'm getting on with my real work - designing on my Mac. I don't get involved with databases and e-commerce programs but there are some excellent programs that I do use that are only available for PCs. I get the best of both worlds.

Anyway, Macs and PCs are not all that different today. There was a time when they were chalk and cheese, but most of the programs I use are available on both platforms and virtually identical. I don't automatically buy a Mac version and a Windows version of all my software, that just doubles the costs but Web browsers are free so I have a good collection of those on both platforms. There are problems running multiple versions of Explorer on the same PC so I have a removable drive bay into which I can plug hard drives with different operating systems and browsers. Not as simple as choosing 'Startup Drive' in the Mac's control panels, but workable. But then there aren't any problems running different browser versions on Macs anyway. Maybe they are not quite as bad as some people would make out!

I have many Web design colleagues that I respect very highly, who prefer to use PCs. I don't have a problem with that at all. But, they rarely, if ever, check what their Web pages look like to a Mac user. For instance, I find it impossible to read the text on my bank's online site because small type specified on a PC has too few pixels to render correctly on a Mac. It's the old screen resolution differences problem.

Yes, I'm still using Netscape 4.7. I wouldn't have that particular problem if I used Explorer 5 or Netscape 6. Well, forget Netscape 6 for the minute, it's not ready for prime time just yet, Mac Explorer 5 is okay, I can't really fault it. It's just that if I design a Web page and get it right in Netscape, it usually works just fine in Explorer too, but not necessarily the other way round. And, if you look at the WPDFD survey, a lot of other designers seem to concur. Just like the Mac/PC question, it's probably more to do with warm, fuzzy feelings than cold logic. That is a creative person's prerogative.

While the computer journalists are arguing over comparative Pentium and G4 clock speeds, the only clock speed I am interested in is that of the one on the wall heralding a fast approaching deadline. Productivity has more to do with empathy with your tools than any other factor.

So, the next time someone tells you that you can't use a Mac to design Web pages, just smile and point out that where it may be more difficult to make dovetail joints than to use nails - it can be infinitely more rewarding.

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