baked byJon Tan
I was a late-comer to Macs. Until 2008 most of my design and development was done on a Windows machine. For the first time in a long while I recently did some web fonts testing on an entry-level Windows 7 laptop. Ignoring the culture shock of the OS, and seeing the Web through the filter of Windows on a lesser-quality display, I re-learnt something: To design and develop on Windows machines is to work in the most adverse environment first, and that is a good thing.
It was emphatically demonstrated when I visited some sites I like. They worked for the most part on Windows, but they inevitably didn’t feel the same. In some extreme cases, the design was significantly degraded in terms of type and contrast. Some work that I thought looked beautiful on my Mac lost its beauty on Windows. It made me wonder if there isn’t too much disdain for Windows in many designers’ mindsets, causing them to dismiss how their work looks on Windows. I know I’ve been tempted by that fallacy in the past.
A decade ago with Windows as my primary operating system it was very different. I started to get pretty good at defensive development. I automatically wrote CSS that worked in alternative browsers, but would not create IE layout issues, leaving very few problems to fix. I set type for the adverse Windows environment first, making sure it was acceptable to me there. My attempts to understand the nuances of screen fonts prompted me to learn what was going on with rendering engines, and try to explain it to fellow designers. It was similar to testing type at the smallest size first, because, like writing CSS for IE, if it renders well there, it will almost certainly render well at larger sizes — in more advanced environments. Inevitably, when I tested sites on Macs they worked. The type worked. The layouts worked.
My recent experience with Windows made me wonder if I shouldn’t switch back. I’d be working in the most adverse environment first. Designing around the problems first. I can’t though. I can’t live with the operating system anymore. I don’t like seeing the Web that way. I don’t like how type renders. And yet, that’s how most of the world sees my work. It’s a conundrum.
I won’t be switching back. I spend my days using my machine, and although I know I’d adapt, I just don’t want to spend it looking at Windows. I will be looking at Windows a lot more, though. On a Windows machine, and not just through VMs. It’s a purely self-indulgent choice, but perhaps by acknowledging how using Macs has skewed my perspective, I can make sure I serve Windows just as well as I once did when I used it every day.