Understand your medium

Today someone sent me a link on twitter to a page on the web which supposedly has a checklist for designers. I opened it on my phone, as one does with Twitter. I saw a yellow page with the message

Designers checklist advices
The iPhone version will be available soon ;) – Use your iPad or your desktop to view it

First I thought this was a clever joke. A checklist for webdesigners that doesn’t work on your specific device is a good way of explaining that all websites must work on all devices. It’s one of the core principles of the web, and you have to understand it if you want to create things for the web. But then I realised that unfortunately, it wasn’t a joke. And this made me wonder,

If a website doesn’t work on all devices, is it still a website?

I don’t think so. There’s been a discussion about the difference between an app and a website lately, and the conclusion seems to be that a website just works everywhere, while an app only works for a predefined set of devices or browsers.

Back in 2003 when I made the switch from Windows to Apple, I tried very hard to install Home Site on it. It just didn’t work. This frustrated me, because it was an excellent editor, but I was not very surprised. That’s how operating systems work. It’s very hard to create something that works natively on different operating systems. But this logic does not apply to the web. On the web it’s very easy to create something that works everywhere. Actually, it’s pretty hard to create something that doesn’t work everywhere. So why would you even try that?

Now, what kind of thing was that link that I received? It was definitely not a website, since it doesn’t just work on my device of choice. So it was probably an app. But if it was an app, why was it published on the web, instead of in an app store? I really don’t get it.

Whatever it was, the first item on that Designers checklist advices should be

  1. Understand your medium