July 18, 2012
With mobile devices gravitating toward higher resolutions and more powerful displays, many web and application design teams are upping the ante with high-definition graphics. However, according to industry expert Wells Riley, this may spark a "Retina war," or the abandonment of lower-resolution GUI design in favor of developing for Retina displays, despite a high number of users still using non-HD displays.
Riley compared this change to a few years ago when some developers dropped Internet Explorer support before Mozilla's Firefox even had 30 percent of the market share. According to Riley, it's possibly developers will once again jump to a shiny, new trend before users are even ready to utilize it. To make matters worse, for those using the new MacBook Pro with Retina display, traditional web UI design will be virtually impossible. Riley shows that 1x design on a Retina display can be clunky, with graphics appearing highly pixilated and blocky. The problem is, he said, the screen is simply "too good to be backwards compatible."
According to Riley, the problem isn't necessarily the differentiation in graphical user interface design that will occur, but designers not wanting to develop interfaces for both. Riley worries that designers may implement a "1x tax," or extra charge for clients who want applications and websites designed for both low-res and Retina displays.
However, Riley may be underestimating developers. According to .net magazine, a Retina war may be possible, but only from certain camps of designers. Another industry expert, Chris Mills, developer relationships manager for Opera, told the news source that high-resolution displays are not likely to become the norm for many years still.
Mills told .net that the sensible solution would be to separate the two design environments - using media queries to swap between the two for users and filtering devices. However, this solution wouldn't work for non-CSS websites - pure HTML would still pose a challenge. However, Mills did agree that a cost differentiation may end up occurring down the road, with designers charging more for creating interfaces in low and high res.
With this new technology, it is important to consider consumer trends before making any decisions. If sales of the new Retina display devices stagnate, or are slow, then developers are better off sticking with 1x design until the new, higher-resolution computers, smartphones and tablets truly take off.