Re: Theory? (of Web design)

Subject: Re: Theory? (of Web design)
From: Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- jci -dot- com
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 9 Oct 2001 11:56:07 -0500

>Stylesheets are iffy if
>you're not experienced with them (I've seen plenty of pages ruined by bad
>stylesheets), and some older browsers won't interpret them properly.

Ummmm......*most* browsers don't interpret them properly. Let's see....
IE5/Mac, latest Opera and Netscape6/Mozilla.9x are about the best ones I
can think of. Every other one has bugs, some of them very serious, while
trying to use CSS. (Don't get me started in IE5/Win's abuse of the box

That having been said, I'd still work on using CSS, as tables will badly
screw up a vision-impaired person's speaking browser. CSS ain't easy to get
right, though. Just (re)found (I knew it existed but I plain fergot) a
nasty bug in IE/Win 4.x support for CSS a few weeks ago. There's some good
articles on and that will get you
through most of the nightmares, and it's worth the effort, IMHO, in future
maintenance issues.

>...but you can't do that if the white space is too much for you?
>I reject the idea that the reader should have to resize their browser just
>to be able to read the page... the designer should nip that problem in the

There's a statement that makes me twinge. In HTML, the designer should be
more of an advisor than a dictator (as "nip ... in the bud" implies).
That's another reason why I prefer CSS to tables. I can specify the width
in CSS, and the viewer can choose to override my decision. I do it in a
table, and it's not possible to do that.

>> I sometimes have full 1600 by 1280 screen available on a 21" monitor. If
>> I've got that, I'd like as much of yout text as reasonable on that

And if the width is in CSS, you can do that if you wish.

>But there are some principles of design and usage that are cross-media.

Yes, but not as many as all too many designers seem to think. Line length,
for example, isn't an absolute. Some folks can tolerate a longer line than
others. That's why allowing some customization is a Good Thing. Of course,
to get the maximum value from customization (, with its
1-or-3-column view is an interesting step in that direction) the viewer has
to enable javascript, but that's one of the trade-offs on the web.

> And, as the web evolves, it is evolving AWAY FROM the flowing
>HTML and full-screen (no margins) style of its early days.

Yes/No. The good stuff these days uses the browser window, and flows itself
comfortably into it. It exercises restraint, but not the ice or jello
designs of the past. It allows liquidity, and tries to compensate where
possible. It realizes that white space is both necessary and evil; some
white space is Good but excessive white space is Bad.

(Jargon Explanation:
ice: A design frozen at a constant width and a constant distance from
the left edge of the window.
jello: A design with constant width and expandable margins, roughly
centered in the window.
liquid: A design which allows itself to conform (like a liquid) to any
browser window and which attempts to provide a good display within those

Think of them as a good/better/best progression -- or bad/acceptable/good,
depending on your POV.)

Have fun,
Chief Managing Director In Charge, Department of Redundancy Department
DNRC 224

Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
In God we trust; all others must provide data.
Opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
If JCI had an opinion on this, they'd hire someone else to deliver it.

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