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In figuring out how well-known companies apply spacing in designing interfaces, I looked at a couple of mobile websites. Virtually none of them seem to apply a consistent grid system.

  • Google, Booking and Behance largely follow a 4pt grid with fair consistency.
  • Apple appears to be a hot mess of seemingly random spacing without system?
  • Everyone else comes across to be doing their own thing, including Join, whose spacing isn't even steady between their different pages.

What am I missing? Why is it so popular when no one seems to follow it?

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Yes, it is.

One thing up front: Google recommends 8dp (not 8pt, but convertible for the same purpose). I'm not sure where you get the idea that these companies use a 4pt grid, but 4pt is still within the 8pt grid (we could argue that the 8pt grid is a 4pt grid, which is correct).

The thing about the 8-letter (or 4) grid is that it fits most devices. And that includes Apple. Apple doesn't give a fixed number, but if you look at the examples, they all use the 8pt grid.

I understand that some companies have inconsistent spacing. Many of them don't even have a design system (though none of the ones you mentioned). But the 8 grid, while a relatively new fad, has been around for decades, and believe me, many designers use it. I'm a little confused by your last question, because in my experience it's just the opposite. Even the site you're asking this question on uses an 8pt grid!

To summarize:

  • It's used and tested by many quality design companies
  • It's very easy to use, even by inexperienced designers
  • Provides a consistent layout for designs
  • It's very easy to adapt to almost any design system
  • Looks great on any device and every DP resolution

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