Main page :: Design :: Small issues

Small and important issues


The choice of the language
Although my native language is (Flemisch) Dutch, and although I am a big fan of it (who doesn't like struggling with the dt-rule?), I will write most (all) in English. That is just a matter of potential public: either you address some 25 million readers, versus half the world (a wild guess, but you get the idea). In particular, I will, attention allowing, opt for British English with the -ise preference.
As of today, everyone seems to have an opinion about what you write, and people expect to be able to ventilate it also. There is no direct problem with that, but comment facilities attract two kinds of posters: humans and bots. The former may have to say something useful, but usually not; the latter are quite useless altogether.
I guess the response is simple: if someone really has to say something to me, that he uses the contact system, and tells it. And then I will decide what to do with it, like putting a "Comment" on the actual page.


The width of the site
I have on several occasions expressed my opposition to fixed-width websites, arguing that I should be the one to decide how I would like to view that particular page. In retrospect, that argument mainly applied to websites that forced a minimum width, and were in fact meant for full-screen Windows-style viewing. As I am a big windows-user (stress on the notion of windows, not the operating system), and screens were smaller at the time, I was obviously irritated by a window that needed to fill the whole screen for nothing.
Nowadays, my view has changed, in that websites "should be" fixed-width, but in the sense that they should not force a minimum width, but rather a maximum width. Many screens these days are widescreen, and fully flexible websites are just inconvenient: just imagine this paragraph on a, say, 27" iMac screen with a full screen browser window: that would just be two lines of text without precaution. Hence I decided to go for a fixed text block, roughly following the 60 characters per line rule.
Font issues
Always a difficult issue if you want to think about it, and a simple one if you let the browsers decide. Since this is an exercise, I make things not simple, so I play with the CSS code in order to learn from it. One thing: as someone who has read quite some TeX and LaTeX documentation, I was completely surprised by the statement that "on computer screens, sans-serif fonts are considered easier to read than serif fonts". The general opinion for printed text is in any case the opposite: the serifs guide the eye to follow the line. I am not sure how they arrived at this statement, and I didn't research the issue, but it seems to me that, especially on the current generation of screens and with anti-aliasing, we are getting close enough to printed text.
Links to external sites
Whether or not to open a link to an external website in a separate page or not is a bit of a tricky question. You can actually take two stances in that: either you allow the user to decide for himself. Or you decide that it is good practise to open an external site in a separate tab or window. For this website, I choose the second stance. An additional argument is the equivalent of the Wikipedia vortex: you may get carried away in following these links, and closing a tab or window brings you back to your starting point.
An update: I have been rethinking this, and while the argumentation is still valid, there is a certain amount of arrogance in it, you are forcing the reader to keep your website open, even of that is not desired. On the other hand, in most browsers it is simple to open a link in another window, so you can also leave the decision to the reader. But still, then you need to make a visual distinction between an internal and external link. So awaiting a definitive decision, pages since this decision use a scheme where internal links have no underline, and external links do.
Navigational hazards
Or: where am I on this website? Looking at navigation on current website shows that the navigational sections are often found in header or footer parts, and navigational parts on the side are becoming more rare. If present, the latter usually refer to the content of the page itself. This strikes me as a logical approach, so that I will at least follow: main navigation will go in the header.
As I will leave the header permanently on screen, this leaves the footer free for other uses. My first idea would be to use it at least for a link to a sitemap, and maybe for a link to a comments sections. Obviously, given the more article-based approach I intend to use, copyright doesn't belong here.
Thus, I will end up probably with two main designs: header--content--footer and header--navigation+content--footer, and I expect that the first will be most often used.
I prefer clean and simple design. It is a question of content, and the form should not hinder the transmission of the content. The consequence is that you have to think a lot about form.
The basic principle is to keep everything simple: nothing moving, clear fonts, consequent looks,...
Artistic blood is not in my veins, so I have to rely on other people's qualities to get some decent looks together. One of these is Solarized, a collection of colours that provide a goodlooking ensemble for a text-based situation. (In fact, I am looking at the Solarized Light theme in Sublime Text while typing this.)

The really small issues

Should I have my visits counted?
Or: vanity. I decided to do it out of interest, and because, well, it is part of the design process: how to do that actually?