Re: Netscape, HTML, and Designers

Chris Lilley, Computer Graphics Unit (
Wed, 19 Oct 1994 17:25:15 +0100

dkearns said:

>>From: CONNOLLY @ SMTP (Mark Connolly) {}
>>Date: Tuesday, October 18, 1994 4:42PM

>>I'd like to make a few comment from this graphic designer's perspective.

>>I understand and appreciate that HTML is intended for _logical structure_
>>markup. It seems to me, though, that more and more Web sites are being set
>>up as if HTML were being used to do _page layout_ markup. As a designer,
>>the latter is how I'm accustomed to presenting information on a printed
>>page, and I'm sure many other designers would take the same approach.

>The problem, as I see it, is that companies are bringing in (or turning to)
>page_designers for web documents. Its perhaps unfortunate that the term
>'page' was used to describe the basic unit of web 'deliverable'.

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck.

HTML rendered in your browszer of choice not only looks like a duck, it is
yellow, has webbed feet and talks to other ducks ;-)

Trouble is, on someone elses machine it looks and honks like a goose.

People will always bring the paradigms they are familiar with to new situations
and try and make them fit. They will then make adjustments so they fit better.

I have seen discussions among Computer Aided Learning folks on how the M-entity
could be made non-resizable and always have the same colours and fonts etc to
stop people messing up the layout. That is their approach for other CAL tools so
they want to do that here. Constrain the user.

By providing exactly the same browser functionality and background colour and
even default window size on all platforms, Mozilla gives these users a lot of
what they are asking for. To my knowledge it is the only browser to do so.

Look in the app-defualts file for Mozilla; it tells you not to change the fonts
because then pages will not look right. It won't let you alter the background
colour from grey because, as it says in the FAQ, many pages assume a grey
background (!!)

I see a lot of pages on the net where the formatting all messes up if you have
M-entity for X use anything other than the default width.

And I have even seen a page recently which had a link "if your page looks wrong"
that explained how to change M-entity for WinDoze to particular screen sizes and
fonts to make everything look as it was designed to.

You can't blame people from thinking HTML is a page description language,
because it does describe pages and they are laid out on screen.

There have been a lot of suggestions in the last year for alternatives to HTML
for those who want better page layout control. For the most part, these have
been made by people who did not want such facilities, rather than those who did.
IE, go away and use this other thing which may perhaps be suitable. It was
encouraging to see Mark Connolly's statements in this regard, and also that
graphics designer who posted here a few months back about the design work he had
been contracted to do for some companies' web pages.

People do not want to go away and use a proprietary and incompletely documented
format like Microsoft RTF which does not give them HTTP links and for which
browsers do not exist. They see HTML as very nearly giving them what they want,
and if a browser supplier gives them some more on top of that, they will flock
to use it.

Corporates who wish to put forward a corporate image will deal with
inter-browser variations by bundling one particular browser with their products,
not by struggling to write browser-independent HTML or voluntarily refraining
from naughty-but-nice parctices that their competitors are using to make *their*
web pages look better.

> There's a new paradigm, a dynamic page,
> configurable by the user for his convenience. Imagine, for a moment, that
> you can push a button, and your Wall Stret Journal is now a tabloid, for
> easier reading on the subway. Or your Reader's Digest is now 11 X 14, with
> bigger fonts because your eyes don't work as well as they did 20 years ago.

All this is true, but as you say it is a *new* paradigm, and people are for the
most part still using the old one. You can't educate everyone all at once.