The use of the grid-based system is quickly becoming one of the hottest trends in web design. Designers are increasingly learning that the approach that has traditionally been used in the worlds of graphic design and print publishing can deliver huge benefits when building websites. But not so fast. The grid is not all peaches and cream. There are both pros and cons to using this type of system in your web design strategy.
Advantages of the Grid
Great for content-rich sites. The type of sites that benefit the most from the grid-based approach are those that are rich in content. The evenly distributed use of columns, rows, and other elements makes for an architecture that can accommodate just about anything you throw at it. As a result, sites based on the grid tend to be very pleasing to the eye.
Device-friendly. One of the main reasons web designers are turning to the grid has to do with the power it offers to create sites that are truly responsive. With proper implementation, it can help build sites that look and perform good on desktop computers, smart-phones, tablets and other platforms. This sort of diversity is becoming more important in a world where people are accessing the web on such a broad array of devices.
Enhanced stability. Another advantage the grid offers is enhanced stability. When using this system, the designer plans everything that will be done in the way layout, alignment, and file size before inserting a single piece of content. This creates a foundation that promotes stability and consistency while generally simplifying the design process.
Better engagement. Traditionally, one of the most significant benefits of grid-based design has lied in its ability to direct the reader’s attention to certain content. Magazine and newspaper publishers use it to highlight articles, photos, and other material. Likewise, web designers can use it to highlight elements such as company logos, sign-up forms, and even advertisements.
Unmatched flexibility. The grid approach brings superior flexibility to web design. It allows you to use vertical and horizontal lines in such a wide variety of ways, that it can support just about whatever your project calls for. In addition, it lets you mix and match different types of systems. For example, you can combine column grids with modular grids, manuscript grids with hierarchical grids, and so forth.
Disadvantages of the Grid
Restricted creativity. Grids are capable of supporting some pretty innovative designs, but they could potentially restrict creativity as well. With every piece of content being planned into a specific area, a web designer may feel like they are trapped within the very borders they have defined. This is why some experts encourage professionals to not be afraid to design outside of the grid.
Lack of dynamic appeal. An ideal grid is based on a fixed layout. While this aspect allows it accommodate static websites almost perfectly, it can be troublesome for those that require complex dynamic content. Depending on the technology used, dynamic content can break the very structure and consistency the grid aims to create.
Steep learning curve. Building a website based on any type of grid system can be challenging for even the most experienced web designers. There is a lot of information on the subject, but some of it is misleading and confusing because so many people have differing opinions on how such a design should look. Needless to say, mastering this approach requires time and patience, in addition to skill.
Not fit for all sites. Many of the cons of using grids in web design can be argued up and down, but the one thing that cannot be debated is the fact they are not right for every website. This approach generally works best with sites that have a lot of content. So if you only have a small amount of content to support, implementing a grid will likely prove to be a waste of time that complicates matters.
Using grids in web design is a trend that will only evolve as more site owners and designers come to discover the benefits. There is potentially much to be gained, but there is a lot to lose as well, mainly time on a design that may not be right for your website. Overlooking the disadvantages and how they might play into the process is a mistake you can’t afford to make. Before hopping on the bandwagon, weigh the pros and cons to make certain that the grid approach is the way to go.