:Archive Of December 2002:

Tuesday, December 31, 2002 - 3:50 PM -

I made an index page to go with Sunday's text styles template. No new information, just a better link for the link-happy.

Monday, December 30, 2002 - 12:40 AM -

Design I like is shimmering transparencies of associations. Design I like requires mental agility. Design I like is bloody hard to make into cross platform accessible web pages.

Take millennia old traditions of Image, Sound, and Surface, add the raw gasoline of video within the unrelenting welter of the symbol culture around you, and it's really something of a challenge to express in a media designed from the ground up as extended typesetting.

Good thing I like difficulties and disrespect the concept of dilemma. Birth your third option.

Sunday, December 29, 2002 - 4:22 PM -

Just a little something I've been meaning to put online for folks starting CSS. It's my generic text styles template. Due to browser shortcomings, what should be pretty simple is an unfortunate hell when you're new to things.

Short history of text sizing involves a number of issues. First off is the browser defaults are huge, like 200% of program toolbar font. Absurd. So designers make text smaller. And they found the only thing that worked consistently across browsers [which in those days meant IE and Netscape] was to set it in pixels. Which could not be resized in IE PC, presenting an accessibility problem. ALA did a nice article on how to use keywords instead of pixels, which was great but didn't work for Opera. [How I can tell you are using the ALA method: I have to back up to my kitchen to read comfortably. It's like being slapped with an eyechart.] Anyhow, I played about and found you can make a nice ems stylesheet with P text at 1.0 em, and then downsize the whole thing by selecting size in BODY with %, like 76%. It's simple, easy to change, and works for everything. Score 1 for late nights and coffee. Enjoy.

This generic template uses that method, is formatted for easy reading of full-width text pages, and it has some useful comments in the code. It's what I use as a typography starting point.


It also introduces something new for my pages. It doesn't use the Browser Upgrade Campaign to deal with Netscape 4 anymore. The BUC was really useful to get developers to try using CSS, and to get a lot of users to realize an upgrade wasn't just a change of chrome this time, but the BUC had limits, and those are becoming painful.

First off, we now know a heck of a lot more about how to make at least some CSS positioning work for NN4. If you've being paid to present fully styled pages to the remaining NN4 users, then you can do it. (And there will be NN4 users with us for some time. The browser was a highly popular institutional install in libraries and universities and businesses. Many people who surf into your site with NN4 can't change their browser.)

But it's not easy to string complex CSS for NN4 as well as our gimped modern browsers, and for personal sites like this one it's not worth the trouble. So NN4 was given unstyled content and the upgrade message to explain why.

Which brings up a very real problem with the BUC. The upgrade message is also presented to search engine robots and readers for the blind and PDAs, whom it is not meant for, and for whom it's confusing. Rory solved the first two by using an image upgrade notice without an alt tag. But PDAs still get the useless upgrade message, and I'm more concerned about the expanding PDAs than declining NN4 these days, so bye-bye BUC on this site.

But man, I hate giving the remaining NN4 folks ugly raw HTML without even a hint that this site is meant to be styled. After all, they're surfing those leftover commercial table sites most of the time -- they don't know their browser is junk. What to do?

I'm compromising. There is a nn4.css serving the same styled text template to the old 4.x browsers, and by using the magic of background images, there is a discrete but legible notice across the top that it's a simple page for old browsers.

But there's no way to make that notice link to a full explanation without adding tags to the HTML, and I'm not doing that because it messes with legitimate browsers.

I don't consider this a full success, but that's my current compromise on bending over backwards.

Sunday, December 1, 2002 - 12:07 AM -

More obscure logos from the crackin good ominous valve.

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