Tags: alistapart

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Flexibility

Over on A List Apart, you can read the first chapter from Tim’s new book, Flexible Typesetting.

I was lucky enough to get an advance preview copy and this book is ticking all my boxes. I mean, I knew I would love all the type nerdery in the book, but there’s a bigger picture too. In chapter two, Tim makes this provacative statement:

Typography is now optional. That means it’s okay for people to opt out.

That’s an uncomfortable truth for designers and developers, but it gets to the heart of what makes the web so great:

Of course typography is valuable. Typography may now be optional, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. Typographic choices contribute to a text’s meaning. But on the web, text itself (including its structural markup) matters most, and presentational instructions like typography take a back seat. Text loads first; typography comes later. Readers are free to ignore typographic suggestions, and often prefer to. Services like Instapaper, Pocket, and Safari’s Reader View are popular partly because readers like their text the way they like it.

What Tim describes there isn’t a cause for frustration or despair—it’s a cause for celebration. When we try to treat the web as a fixed medium where we can dictate the terms that people must abide by, we’re doing them (and the web) a disservice. Instead of treating web design as a pre-made contract drawn up by the designer and presented to the user as a fait accompli, it is more materially honest to treat web design as a conversation between designer and user. Both parties should have a say.

Or as Tim so perfectly puts it in Flexible Typesetting:

Readers are typographers, too.

100 words 016

A Dao of Web Design by John Allsopp is a document that stands outside of time. It was a perfectly crafted message for its own era, and amazingly it’s even more relevant now, a full fathom fifteen years later.

We once took on the tropes of print design and tried to apply them to the web. I fear that today we run the risk of treating web development no different to other kinds of software development, ignoring the strengths of the web that John highlighted for us. Flexibility, ubiquity, and uncertainty: don’t fight them as bugs; embrace them as features.

Fanning the flames

There’s a new issue of A List Apart out today. As Richard put it:

Jeremy dares to clash with the mighty Zeldman.

Though I find Shaun’s description cuter:

Morpheus is fighting Neo!

To be honest, there’s nothing really new in the article I’ve written. In 2000 words, I managed to squeeze out one decent sentence:

The proposed default behavior for version targeting in Internet Explorer solves the problem of “breaking the web” in much the same way that decapitation solves the problem of headaches.

For a better, more impassioned rebuttal of the IE8’s default version targeting behaviour, I’d recommend just reading my original blog post, Broken and its follow-up Still Broken. I’m starting to feel somewhat jaded and exhausted about the whole thing. I can understand why Eric gave up trying to convince Chris and co. that the default behaviour is wrong.

I will be going to MIX08 in Las Vegas at the start of March to meet with the IE team but though they might be willing to listen to opposing viewpoints, I get the sinking feeling that their position on default behaviour is not reversible.