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On the Web, Size Does Matter

April 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Determining the appropriate width of a website has always been a tricky matter. Different monitor sizes, non-maximized browser windows, toolbars, adjustable OS elements all add to the variability. Early on there were some clever approaches, like this (just resize your window to the width of the image!). There were also many novice designers who built things at literal screen resolutions, say 800×600 or 1024×768. The problem is that with browser chrome and OS elements in place, your actual usable browser width was nowhere near that, more like 760 or ~960.

There’s also the long running debate of fixed width sites versus fluid or dynamic width sites.  There are several ways to implement a fluid width. Early sites simply didn’t specify a width, which on modern screens leads to absurdly wide columns of text which are awful in terms of readability. If you’re page is filled with content you could also break it up into smaller chunks and have them float to the right of each other, so that on a wider screen they’ll appear horizontally but on narrower screens they’ll cascade vertically.

Another more recent approach takes advantage of the CSS tags min-width and max-width to set limits, which help adapt the page to different sizes, but still retain the same general layout and readability (here’s a nice example). As usual though, these properties aren’t supported in IE6 so hacks and workarounds are used. In broad terms there are good reasons and cases for both types of layout, but in the CPG and other consumer marketing sectors we typically work in, brand guidelines and design specs usually lend themselves to the more tightly defined fixed widths.

For several years now, the predominant screen resolution for general purpose sites has been 1024×768, meaning that we could build sites at 960 – 980 px wide and fill those users screens fairly well. What we’re beginning to see though, is more diversity in screen sizes above 1024 wide. Widescreen monitors up to 30″ (both 16×9 and 16×10 aspect ratios), older 4×3 monitors, and people using HDTVs as monitors bring dozens of possible resolutions into play.

How do we accomodate these…what’s the new 960? Some people have picked conservative estimates, but those don’t seem to really utilize much of the space available on many systems. A counterpoint to that is also the success of netbooks, ie tiny laptop computers, whose screens are typically much lower resolution, though often widescreen in ratio. Bring mobile phones into the equation (some that use mobile styles and others like the iPhone that pull the full site styles), and you’ve just got a mess on your hands!

Different style sheets can help, and perhaps we strive for more use of min and max widths, but what are your thoughts on a new standard in fixed widths?  Is it time, or do we need more stats on larger resolution screens? Are we destined to work at 960 for years to come?

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Swiss cheese fonts for greener printing?

December 19, 2008 Leave a comment

The effort to go green is growing every day, and we can all do little things to reduce our waste and our energy footprints. But, have you ever considered the environmental ramifications of your fonts?

Well, a Dutch company has created a typeface called EcoFont that claims to reduce the amount of ink (and therefore energy used) in printing by 20%. They do this by literally punching little holes in the characters. At a large size it looks absurd, but the idea is that at a normal print size for office documents, say 12 or 14pt, it’s virtually indistinguishable.

ecofont

Does it really work? I’m a little skeptical that the resolution and precision of the average cheap inkjet or laser printer is fine enough to print a dot/line that can really utilize the holes in the characters. It also remains to be seen if the average office will swap their mainstay Times and Arial fonts for something they have to download and install themselves.

Regardless, I applaud SPRANQ for trying something different, and illuminating how we might make common little tasks more eco-friendly.

DigitalDay’s Winter Site Refresh is Live, along with Silly Holiday Video

December 19, 2007 Leave a comment

Arriving home from a great meeting in Chicago this evening, I popped on the DigitalDay web site to and saw that the DigitalDay Winter Refresh was live. This was a great group effort by everyone in the agency, with this iteration of our site’s design led by Ganbold.

In addition to the seasonal face lift to this one-page site, we updated our client list, added new portfolio pieces, posted new job openings (YES, We’re HIRING!!!) and interjected the personalties of the DigitalDay teammates.

The fun part to this refresh was the creation of the “12 Days of Email” video, embedded on our site which is part of our online Holiday Greeting Card. If you’re not on our mailing list, visit DigitalDay to opt in to our e-mail list.

And now, through the wonders of YouTube, here’s DigitalDay’s “12 Days of Email”:

The Trajan Horse

December 19, 2007 Leave a comment

Quick, beside that cool announcer guys voice, what do you think of when I say movie trailers and posters?

It turns out you should think of Trajan as well. In what can only be described as a typographical travesty, the ever popular Trajan font is used, almost overwhelmingly to promote and represent modern movies. This observation is the sole inspiration for a whole blog, and a humorous video.

Named after a Roman emperor, Trajan is not a poorly formed or simply ugly font (others aren’t so lucky), but it has become so clichéd and overused that it represents laziness on the part of both designers and the marketing community that supports them. Surely there are other interesting typefaces out there, many of whom have more character and unique features. Think of the films of yesterday, especially their titles. Hand-created type was the norm, and creativity ran rampant (see Hitchcock films, or old Bond films especially). Yes, it’s nice to have a semibold font with big pronounced serifs, but I think we can all do better.

The Dot.com Bubble… 2.0?

December 5, 2007 Leave a comment

I came across this video yesterday during my daily check of Digg. It’s about the speculation of a Web 2.0 bubble and it’s to the tune of Billy Joel’s, “We Didn’t Start the Fire.”

The video even asked me to blog the song… how could I deny that?

You Can’t Hande a Bigger Logo!

November 9, 2007 Leave a comment

Here’s a dramatic performance by Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise that should bring a smile to anyone who works in a creative agency.

Thanks for sharing, Peter.