Re: Web Page Appearance

Subject: Re: Web Page Appearance
From: Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- COM
Date: Wed, 22 Jan 1997 14:58:00 -0600

Regardless, as I browse the Web I've been noticing a consistent
pattern: flashy graphics and crummy typography. For example, em
dashes and curly quotes seem to be unavailable. Or are the people
creating Web pages ignorant of their use? Is this a limitation of
HTML, or other?

HTML is a crummy language to do typography with, hence the crummy
typography. It'll grow up someday; right now it's about where word
processing programs were fifteen years ago. Given the temporal acceleration
of our times, this may mean that we have only to wait another five years or
less for it to become either quite satisfactory or completely unusable.

The dashes and quotes you mention are available -- almost. There are special
tags you can use to present them. Unfortunately there are several possible
ways to do this, and not all ways are equal. The least cross-platform way is
to specify the hex code of the character to use. This method usually breaks
when the page is loaded by a browser from a different platform; sometimes
even when loaded by a browser on the same platform as the page was
originally proofed.

Take yourself back in time to the beginning of DTP, when every tom, dick and
mary could produce a newsletter, and did. Most of the results were trash,
many suffered from "Ransom Note Syndrome," using different fonts and sizes
like letters cut from a newspaper, simply because it was possible.

HTML is there now. So we are treated to garish color schemes, too many (and
too large) graphics, Java apps and animated GIFs which do nothing but annoy
us when douwnloaded. Good design is not impossible with HTML, but it *is*
difficult. And most web authors don't seem to want to make the effort,
opting for style and flash over substance and usability.

If you bring up HTML's shortcomings now, you'll be treated to discourses on
how it wasn't intended to do what people are wanting it to do. This is true,
but, alas, irrelevant. The user base has decided, in general terms, what
they want HTML to be. Over the next few years, HTML will either become it or
die; the cynical side of me believes it will do the latter.

Cruise the web looking for sites you consider Well Designed. Grab the HTML
source from those sites and see what they did to achieve that effect. Learn
from it. Apply it to your own pages. Take only from what is Good, leave the
Clueless behind. This is the only way we can raise the quality of the Web.


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

Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com
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