After positive reception to the iPhone 4, Apple released its iPad with a Retina display in March, and now is implementing the technology in even more devices. The 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display was released this summer, and the 13-inch model was announced in October. The company shows no signs of stopping its proliferation of the ultra high-quality screens.
So what exactly does “Retina” mean? At more than 53 pixels per degree, it’s nearly impossible for the human eye to distinguish between the pixels. For a comparison, the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro display has 227 pixels per inch, while the non-Retina version of the computer has just 113 pixels per inch.
This is an exciting update for people in the market for new computers, but it does pose some problems for websites and blogs. Since in Apple’s execution Retina displays have about twice the pixel density but the same amount of space for design elements like windows and images, images at standard resolution look fuzzy on those screens; they’re doubled in size to fit the new resolution. Also, there are technical and financial challenges to immediately supporting this new technology that businesses should keep in mind when making the switch. Here are some points to consider in deciding whether and when to support Retina displays.
A Safe Trend to Jump On
Apple isn’t the only company that’s pushing for a screen resolution far better than simply high-definition. Companies that make Android phones and PC computers are also making strides to offer the same high-resolution dots per inch, or HiDPI, screen — their own moniker for Retina.
This is clearly the start of a trend in the tech world. While it may be restricted to the big-ticket computers and mobile devices today, it’s a safe bet that Retina displays and similar technologies will become less expensive and more common over time. That’s a good reason to start planning to support the higher resolution screen displays. Even if you don’t pull the trigger right away, you’ll want to be prepared to do so.
Busting Your Bandwidth
The main concern for businesses in transitioning to a Retina-worthy website is the bandwidth needed to supply very large images. If you update all of your website’s images to be Retina quality, you’ll have to consider the possibility that you’ll have to spend more for bandwidth. Also, without proper optimization, the page could load at a snail’s pace. Slower page loads mean a less than ideal experience for customers who visit the site. However, increasing your bandwidth amounts to more money, which could be out of reach for many smaller companies.
One option for coping with this is to have two versions of your website — one that’s Retina-compatible and one that’s standard resolution. With some coding expertise, you can set your website or blog to check what kind of computer is accessing the site. If it’s from a normal machine, you can send the visitor to the version with normal resolution. If it’s a Retina display machine, you can redirect to the Retina-optimized site.
Better still, a more sophisticated approach would be to query to scale the images depending on the computer visiting, but not load a separate website. This is what Apple does on its own website.
This is the best intermediary solution if you aren’t ready to go all-in on Retina support, but it does still carry a financial burden. You’ll want to hire a skilled developer to set up the dual display options so that the correct version is always displayed for the corresponding user. This isn’t the place to skimp on expenses. Good developers cost money, but the cost will be worth it in the long run.
For businesses that are not able to shoulder the financial burden of Retina support at this time, start budgeting for it now. Look for ways to maximize your existing bandwidth and crunch the numbers to find where you might be able to rebudget more resources to infrastructure, if needed.
Cater to Your Audience
A final key element in deciding when to make your blog Retina-friendly is knowing who your readers are. Right now, the company that have been fastest to adopt the HiDPI/Retina displays is Apple. Extrapolating from this, that means the people who are most likely to splurge now on a Retina machine are hardcore Mac fans and creative or artistic professionals. If your audience includes a large proportion of those readers, then you can bet that they’ll want to see Retina support as soon as possible.
If your readers are less likely to jump on new tech trends right away, then you have a longer grace period to decide when, and how, you want to support HiDPI on your site. The technology is still new enough that few websites have made the switch yet, but you can bet that there will be a clear migration soon. You’ll want to make sure you don’t miss the boat and delay too long or readers will wonder why your brand is behind the times.
Is your company going to support Retina displays right away? Let us know in the comments!