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The Accidental Ranter

I've gotten some very little feedback, in the form of a phone conversation, that my redesign of mistersquid, at least as far as the blog goes, is much better. My correspondent (OK, my girlfriend) liked that this page “looks like a blog” which, of course, is the reason I've resisted using blog software on the main page. I mean, how many hundreds of thousands of blogs are there out there all with the same general interface? It makes me slightly ill to think mistersquid went from quirky if schizophrenically garish to muted and visually predictable. I rest somewhat easier since I've at least modified Dave Shea's Folio theme so that it is fluid and the sections aren't constrained by single-pixel borders (or floating over them once I fluidified the style sheet).

Speaking of which, I never quite understood fixed-width layout, even though mistersquid used to be fixed-width himself. My excuse is that once I put mistersquid together, redesigning the site using CSS was like tidying Frankenstein's monster by dressing him in a new suit. Fixed-width layout is worse than narcissism for sites that have longer text sections. It also prevents people from efficiently utilizing the screen space on their monitors. Dave Shea's main website, mezzoblue, seems to me a perfect example of textual anorexia, or textorexia, unnecessarily thin columns bordered by a continents of nothing


Shea's design is pretty, but nearly a quarter of his usable space is used on a bright blue field that contrasts badly with the red-orange tones of the navigation bar


The text at this level occupies only a quarter of the usable space. That's just bad typographical design, I'm sorry. The graphic character has appeal, and the site is readable, but the layout is atrocious. This is what happens on my measly 1024 x 768 iBook screen, imagine what happens when one pulls up the site on a browser window sized to a 23“ LCD screen. Well, luckily for you, you don't have to imagine. I can show you:


It's almost too painful for words. As a side note, if I find that mezzoblue happens to employ too small a font and, say, I increase the font sizing by pressing COMMAND-= twice, I'm suddenly looking at an ”I-Can-Read“ primer.

I respect Shea's visual design skills, but his use of fixed-width layouts in both his main site and the themes he designed for Movable Type betray a desire to control user experience rather than provide user experience. If one wants to read narrow columns, one can narrow the width on the browser. To be fair, Shea is not alone in the web-designer's desire to strait-jacket web surfers. Unfortunately, some of those users drown.

But this is not a rant I intended to write. First, because I'm extremely grateful to Shea for providing such a slick look for Movable Type which I've shamelessly cribbed | crippled | defaced. Second, because I really wanted to write about Internet cycles and the fact that in the last six-months, people from my past have Googled and found me. end of article



To quote the "Not So Short Introduction to LaTeX2e" in the hopes it has somewhat more authority than me:

"The line length has to be short enough not to strain the eyes of the reader, while long enough to fill the page beautifully."

If I thought for one second the fixed-width MT templates were designed to keep with the somewhat CW that 60-80 characters is ideal line width for single-column layouts, I'd be critical of what you're saying. But I do see both sides, too, working part time on an Apple Cinema Display myself, it's a really odd transition to move outside the 4:3 aspect ratio. Once you get used to it, though, I imagine those little columns of text surrounded by fatty chimneys of background would get goofy.

That text-resizing doesn't change the width of the columns accordingly, since its fixed width, does it?

OK, now I've talked myself into agreement with you :) I didn't mean for this to be a rant, either. Apologies.