Why Does Every Pixel Matter?

December 6, 2016

Why is the UI designer making me move something just 1px over? Does that 1px even matter? The quick answer is yes, it does matter. I can give you the answer in design speak and say it’s all about balance, consistency, and maintaining the grid, but I don’t think that does it full justice. Below are some of the key reasons why I believe every pixel matters.

Us caring about every pixel, and every detail, helps build trust in a product

When my wife and I were on the hunt for a new home, we looked at every detail — particularly the craftsmanship. Occasionally we would encounter walls that did not meet at right angles, or counter tops that were not level (or made level with the use of wood shims). Yes, those things were still structurally sound, but it did cause us to pause for a moment. If the builders didn’t care about these details, what does that mean for other parts of the house that are less visible? Did they take shortcuts with the electrical wiring or the plumbing of the house? Details like that can be a deal breaker. I believe the best products in our industry care about every little detail, including every pixel.

Aesthetic judgements are a reality

When looking to download an app to your phone, how do you choose among the sea of apps that all do the same thing? A study I came across says that 46.1% of people go by design look and feel, with information design/architecture coming in second at 28.5%. If this is to be believed, the majority of users are making snap judgements and going by first impressions of these apps. I’m definitely guilty of this. I make snap judgments based on the screenshots in the iOS app store or based on the first minute of using an app. Sloppy UI and not paying attention to details could be the cause of users passing over or instantly abandoning your app.

We are artisans/craftsmen/makers

This one speaks to me the most out of all of the reasons why we should care about every pixel. Occasionally, I like to do a bit of woodworking, and it always kills me when I don’t join two pieces perfectly or at the perfect angle. The finished product still works, just like a UI with a pixel off here and there will still work, but I can’t let that go. Craftsmanship means something to me, and I believe the best products strive to get every detail right. It’s what separates the top tier from the tier below. It shows care, which leads to the whole trust thing I mentioned above.

The short answer

For me, seeing a UI element a pixel off is the equivalent of seeing a typo. It’s glaring, and it’s hard to let it go. I’m sure everyone in their specific roles has an equivalent, like forgetting a comma, or code that is not structured or formatted in an organized way. Can you get by without fixing those things? Probably. Will you let it by? I think that’s the more important question.