Re: Screen-sized Web Pages?

Subject: Re: Screen-sized Web Pages?
From: Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 1996 15:17:00 -0600

> If we are follow your
> example, we may as well all give up now and go home. The - let's
> not design anything for the web, it can't be done! - attitude
> annoys me intensely and, if in the future, you can't form a more
> constructive reply, please don't bother.

My, what a leap! I'm impressed! That has to be the longest leap to an
unwarranted conclusion I've seen outside of a legislative office.

FWIW, I agree with Peter. It's impossible to design screen-sized web pages.
(BTW, the original poster *did* use the phrase "designed by the screenful,"
so the crack about siezing a line from the title was off the mark.)

Now, does that even remotely imply we cannot design *anything* for the web?
Hardly. It simply means that we should, in our design, cease to be governed
by the physical dimensions of the display, because that is a design
parameter which has passed beyond our control. For us to design web pages
to *any* physical size standard is futile. Design for what you *can*
control, and stop worrying about what you cannot control.

Now, does *that* even imply that we can no longer design for the web? Of
course not. We can still divide information up into easily-digestible
chunks. What has vanished is the wholly artificial constraint of the
physical size of the chunk. (As opposed to the still necessary and more
natural logical size of the chunk.)

So, we should design really large web pages? No. We should design web
"pages" which are large enough to encompass the chunk of material they are
called upon to present, and not one whit larger. The paper page was a
convenient restriction, because it reminded us not to overtax our readers,
to put them to sleep with infoglut as we unburdened ourselves of Everything
There Is To Know About Sprockets.

That the page was simply an artificial representation of this logical
limitation has, apparently been lost, as we seem now to be called to
worship at the Shrine Of The Screen, unmindful of the reality that there is
no such thing as a standard-size screen, rather than laying our offerings
upon the Altar Of Comprehension where they belong. The reason for chunking
*isn't* the size of the page, it's the mind of the reader. It may sound
overly mystic, but we mustn't confuse reality (shorter descriptions are
easily to assimilate) with the physical manifiestation of it (the page or
display size).

Instead of nursing an irrational devotion to the physical dimensions of the
presentation, pay attention to your "reader's" abilities. The seven-step
procedure can be presented in very compact form, so your advanced users who
just need a reminder can get it quickly, without feeling that you're
talking down to them. Yet a detailed explanation of the step is just a
click away, for those who need the added explanation (note: allow the
viewer of the detailed explanation to return to the main list of steps, or
proceed to the detailed explanation of the next step; don't require
unnecessary clicking simply to follow the detailed explanation of the
procedure). Forget the physical size of the layout; design compactly for
advanced users, with details always available for less experienced ones.

And if you absolutely *cannot* design without some sort of physical
constraint, look to download time rather than physical display size. A
large, well-done display which downloads quickly is better than a smaller
one, equally well-presented, which takes a long time to load.

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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