The importance of images and photography in marketing a website—any website—cannot be overstated. I’m not really talking about having a photographer like Richard Avedon do your portraits and Ansel Adams shoot your landscapes. I’m referring more to the technical side of the image.
It isn’t apparent to everybody that browses online and that’s because not everybody has a high density display. But you will soon. It is inevitable.
The high density display is described as such from Wikipedia:
Retina Display is a brand name used by Apple for liquid crystal displays which they claim have a high enough pixel density that the human eye is unable to notice pixelation at a typical viewing distance. The term is used for several Apple products, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, and MacBook Pro.
The problem is somewhat of a conundrum and has had web designers vexed since these displays have been available. The main problem is that much larger images (higher pixel density) must be served (appear) on your website in order for the images to look crisp on the high density display. The image that appears on your website while not looking through a retina display will likely not appear to be crisp and clear on a retina display if it hasn’t been scaled appropriately for the new displays.
Web designers are faced with challenges that are even larger because of the bandwidth issue. In order to load an image with more pixels requires the browser (user) to have a faster internet connection—and mobile devices inherently lack exactly this quality—even though they were the first to adopt this technology.
As a web developer and someone who believes that images can make or break a first impression, I’m faced with decisions that I have to make such as, do I sacrifice image quality for site speed? Or do I sacrifice load time for higher image quality, betting on the visitor waiting a few extra tenths of a second or seconds in some cases?
I think the answer lies somewhere between the type of site you are developing. If it’s a site that is based upon contextual information and doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the branding side, then I think you might be be able to get away with vector images and fewer images anyway. On the other hand, if you are designing a site that is based upon visuals and ‘eye-candy,’ then the choice is obvious.
There are trade-offs in all site architecture, for sure. And the high density resolution screens present a fairly large architectural decision. The only thing I can say with relative certainty is that these displays will be in front of everyone…. sooner rather than later.