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Mac vs. Windows: Should You Really Be Using a Mac for Design?

Old Mac vs PC Advertisement Guys
There's this thing about the design community, especially visual designers. They generally prefer to use a Mac for design work. I get it. The first time I saw my company's website on a Mac using Netscape, "Wow!" 

I've always been a Windows girl, even for design work. I live in the Seattle area. What do you expect? But seriously, there's more to it than that.

My first experience with Mac versus Windows was when I was working as an office administrator in a small business with an open office and no conference room environment. My boss, the owner of the business, met multiple times with a designer to create the logo for the company and I always overheard the meeting conversations.

My boss kept telling the designer that when he sent over his mocks and she looked at them on her (Windows) computer, the colors were different than when the designer showed her his work (on his Mac). The designer was forced multiple times to look at her computer screen at the color being displayed. He tried to explain to her that it was the difference between Windows and the Mac and even then video card hardware on her computer. My boss never got it and she never trusted she was going to get the color she was seeing on his screen or printed comps. At the time, I didn't get it either. Why would they be different? Heading a startup business the last thing my boss wanted to do was pay hundreds of dollars for company stationery that wasn't going to look like she expected or convey the feel she wanted for the business.

I've carried this lesson with me from the day I started in the tech industry. Design using the computer system your user uses. Design in the minimum screen resolution your user uses and make sure it scales. You might have surprises if you don't.

According to Hongkiat, viewed 05-Aug-2021, Windows has a 91% market share of desktop computers.

According to Statista, viewed 05-Aug-20201, Android has almost a 73% market share of smart phones.

I've been told that you can now put a Windows VM onto a Mac now, so you can see what your work will look like in Windows. I haven't seen this yet and I'm pretty skeptical. I suspect that the display will still be far nicer than if you were seeing it via a Windows computer simply because of the tight hardware integration Apple has always had. There are also programs to that can calibrate your Windows video card to be 'true color.' But very, very few users do this and I would postulate that it's all designers and photographers.

Now twenty-five plus years later I see the exact same problem happening in one of my company's projects.  They hired a third-party to do visual design for it and that company's designers were working on Macs. They showed their work to the paying-for-it managers on their Macs.

The problem is that its a B2B site. So 98% of our users use Windows. The designers have selected various light shades of gray that in some cases simply don't show up on a Windows machine and dark blues between which there is almost no difference. Sure, looks great on the Mac. But we're basically aiming our best visual design towards 2% or less of our users.

So if you're working on a Mac, you really need to rethink whether you really should be. If the vast majority of your users are using Windows machines, you will never see what they're seeing, nor have the ability to adjust the design accordingly.

Design is for our users, not ourselves.


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