Design: finding your way to passable

Dave Pollard’s discovered that web design isn’t exactly an exercise in precision, and that his site looks very different as browsers and screen configurations change. He seems to be taking the lesson pretty hard.

In some ways, he’s echoing things I was saying a few days back. There are differences–I’ve been here before, and I’ve never aspired to detailed control of the screen. I care how the site looks, but the intention’s mainly to communicate. It’s always been enough, to me, that things look OK.

When I started building this site, I expected it to take a couple months to settle the design. That estimate would have been pretty accurate if I’d not changed software and hosting packages in mid-project. Essentially, I’m learning two platforms as I write–CSS, because I want to (my other site uses some CSS, but the layout there is controlled by tables); and CityDesk, which is “easy to use” (in a geeky way, I’d say) but packed with nooks and crannies which should keep me entertained for several months. I have a mental list of problems to solve, and am working through it a bit at a time.

But there’s the problem, methinks. I’m a competent programmer, I’m an experienced web coder, and the problems of settling the website design and getting the sophisticated software to work are places I like to tinker. At the other end, Userland (and some of the other blog software and webspace providers) have made getting started simple, and are excellent products for folks who are satisfied to work within provided templates. It’s the folks who want to operate somewhere between those extremes who have problems, of course.

As the comments attached to Dave’s entry show, the problem is creating a design intended to accomodate folks who:

  • may use a variety of browsers on a variety of screens,
  • may read the site directly,
  • may read it through any of dozens of accumulators,
  • may print it out on at least two sizes of paper.

This is not an easy problem, and is the reason that HTML is designed to loosely control formatting. (Note: This paragraph is a rewrite of my comment in that thread.)

The object is to write, and to publish. The tools are tools. So are the design details.

Note to Dave Pollard: By all means, keep writing.

Link courtesy of Dave Winer/Scripting News.
Would have found it m’self, though; How to Save the World is one of my regular stops.

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