Making sure it works where it matters

Posted on by Guy Cookson

Beyoncé in the video for Formation, directed by Melina Matsoukas

Melina Matsoukas is a Grammy award-winning music video director who has worked with numerous popular artists including Beyoncé, Rihanna and Snoop Dogg.

In a recent New Yorker profile Matsoukas revealed that when she checks her work during a shoot she uses a small twelve inch screen.

“I like to see a video through a computer or through a phone to make sure it looks good at its worst,” she explained. “I hate when you perfect something for the ideal way of consuming things and then when you see it on YouTube it looks like crap.”

This reminded me of an interview the legendary hip hop producer Dr Dre gave in 1992 when he explained he does not depend on people hearing his music through high end audio systems. “When I do a mix,” Dre explained. “The first thing I do is go down and see how it sounds in the car.”

This is something I can relate to. When we build a beautiful new website for a client it would be wonderful if every visitor used a huge ultra high definition monitor, something that gave the design space to breath, and brought out every last detail in every image.

But the majority of people now use the small screen on their phone to browse. They might also be in a hurry, or distracted, with one eye on the TV.

This is why we design websites to work perfectly on devices with different screen sizes and make sure the tasks visitors are most likely to undertake are fast and easy to accomplish.

Great work does not need perfect conditions. In an interview a couple of years ago Bob Dylan recalled lying on his bed as a child in Minnesota listening to a radio station his set could only just pick up from over 1,000 miles south in Louisiana, above the static and hiss, “I remember listening to The Staple Singers’ Uncloudy Day. And it was the most mysterious thing I’d ever heard.”

I think of this when I see teenagers gathered around a phone playing a song through a tiny loudspeaker competing with the sound of traffic, mouthing every single word.

Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg on the hood of a Cadillac de Ville in Los Angeles in 1993. Photo by Mark Seliger for Rolling Stone.

This post first appeared in the Lancaster Guardian where I write a weekly column.

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