on the edge

computers & technology, books & writing, civilisation & society, cars & stuff

Greg Black

gjb at gbch dot net
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If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

FQE30 at Qld Raceway 25 May 2003


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Worthy organisations

Amnesty International Australia — global defenders of human rights

global defenders of human rights

Médecins Sans Frontières — help us save lives around the world

Médecins Sans Frontières - help us save lives around the world

Electronic Frontiers Australia — protecting and promoting on-line civil liberties in Australia

Electronic Frontiers Australia


(Coming soon…)


(Coming soon…)


(Coming soon…)

Software resources

GNU Emacs


The FreeBSD Project

Sun, 18 Jul 2004

Why are web designers so lame?

Brad wrote about CSS Zen Garden, so I thought I’d have a look. The first page appealed to me and “worked” in my Mozilla. Most of the rest rendered so badly that I had to go back to the first one to find the next link to click on; some rendered correctly, but were so slow that I could have made breakfast while waiting. In many cases, the rendering could be improved by dropping my font sizes down to almost invisible—this got a pretty layout, but was of course completely impossible to read.

I just don’t get it. If you’re doing print, then you can determine stuff like font sizes; after all, you can check the results. Even in the print world, designers often demonstrate astonishing stupidity with tiny fonts in ridiculous colours—I have a magazine on my desk now with dark grey type on a mid grey background for the first page of an article I wanted to read.

On the web, you simply cannot guess what your creation will look like on somebody else’s display. So it makes sense to assume that the user has selected a font face and size that suits their eyes and their display and their available fonts and to put all the body text that you want people to read in that default size and face. And then, for headings, you can use “+1” and the like and for minor stuff you can use “-1”.

The second part of the wrongness of most of these designs is that, not only do the designers work with their preferred font sizes in mind, but they force layouts that simply don’t work if larger fonts are used. In the samples referred to above, this results in several cases in lines of text superimposed on top of each other. I defy anybody to read them like that.

None of this is particularly complicated, and none of it is new; but so many would-be experts just can’t be bothered to learn the medium.

All of this rant is not intended to suggest that none of the CSS Zen Garden material is any good—some of it is great, but a lot just sucks.