Visual Appearance (was Re: HTML 4.0 draft available)

Jordan Reiter (
Wed, 9 Jul 1997 03:34:03 -0400

Date: Wed, 9 Jul 1997 03:34:03 -0400
Message-Id: <l03010d05afe8b278a20b@[]>
In-Reply-To: <>
To: Liam Quinn <>,
From: Jordan Reiter <>
Subject: Visual Appearance (was Re: HTML 4.0 draft available)

At 10:13 PM -0000 7/8/97, Liam Quinn wrote:
>Am I the only one who sees warning lights when someone says that his Web
>page depends on visual appearance?
I am here to speak as someone sitting very (un)comfortably on the splintery
fence between pages that focus on content and pages that focus on
appearance.  Obviously, if a web page's sole purpose is informational, then
as little emphasis as possible should be made on its appearance within the
HTML itself.  I actually made a pretty good example of this sort of web
page (which uses style sheets for appearance), which you can see at:
(All of the pages validated with the Cougar specs.  I'm awfully proud about
that.  I know, perhaps, that I shouldn't be, that to most of you HTML
deities it is standard, ho-hum, run of the mill, but I am, nonetheless).

On the other hand, a business (say, a bed and breakfast) that wants to put
itself online (what we call at work an "online billboard") is going to want
a site that *looks* good.  And this is where appearance is important.
These companies want people to get a *visual* sense of their company.  Like
it or not, the web is becoming a powerful advertising force.  And thus,
some web pages *must* be designed visually.  Heck.  It pays the bills.

Careful visual web design means sticking to HTML standardization and trying
to avoid specific visual tags whenever possible.  But the fact is that
although HTML is actually an SGML markup language, it has been promoted and
pushed as a method of visually representing what was before only text in
Gopher menus.  And since HTML is the only thing we've got to put
information out visually on the internet that most people can use, then it
will remain to be exploited visually.

Already I have noticed that Style Sheets, meant to eliminate the problems
of formatting for browsers, do not render the same on different browsers
(font size differences between Netscape and IE are particularly
noticeable).  While it is important to recognize HTML's origin and
existence as a content-based, structure-based markup language, it is also
necessary to recognize what it has become in practical usage.

I know that the Appearance vs. Structure/Content debate is an old and
ancient one that has probably passed by here more than once.  I just had to
get this off my chest (no rest for the wicked ;-7)

[                    Jordan Reiter                     ]
[                 ]
[ "You can't just say, 'I don't want to get involved.' ]
[  The universe got you involved."  --Hal Lipset, P.I. ]