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RE: margin elements (was Re: [www-html] <none>)

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2000 11:20:47 -0800
To: <www-html@w3.org>
Message-ID: <003201c06539$ccb74d00$0100a8c0@aries>
>> Just wondering about the marginwidth, marginheight, leftmargin and
topmargin
>> elements of the body tag.  They don't exist in XHTML 1.0 Transitional
(and
>> may not exist in any W3 spec for all I know) but they seem to be the only
>> way to achieve this effect (in the real world) even on NN4 and so on.
Does
>> anyone know why they are not valid in the Transitional DTD which states
as
>> an aim that it wants to be a usable version of XHTML compatible with
older
>> browsers?

> I believe Jeffrey Zeldman called them the "four horsemen of
non-validation"
> :-) They're necessary to make pages look right in some of the older
browsers
> - I believe N4 is one of them - but in HTML 4 you should be setting this
> stuff in a stylesheet.

In Internet Explorer, you can use style sheets to get the effect you are
looking for. Only Netscape 4 prevents you from accomplishing what you seek
to accomplish without these attributes. That said, the attributes in
question are *never* necessary, because it is not *necessary* for your
design to require them. The reason designers get upset about this feature is
because they approach web page design from the wrong angle. They think
paper, then they try to force their web pages to fit their paper idea.

Instead, designers should understand the medium and work with it. Accept the
limitations of Netscape 4 and find a design that looks good in it without
resorting to hacks like marginheight and marginwidth. Trust that as the
medium evolves, the possibilities will expand enormously. But insist on
valid code. When you compromise, you only delay the arrival of the Web we
all want. Set the example instead.

So, the solution is:

1. Don't create designs that need this feature to "look right."

or, better still,

2. Stop worrying about making your design look perfect in Netscape 4.

It's time, IMO, for all of us to give up <font> and bgcolor and all the
other presentational elements in HTML. With the advent of Netscape 6, there
is no longer any need for these. If we truly want an intelligent solution to
our problems, we must be willing to forge ahead and set the example.

About six months ago I began telling my clients that their sites would look
rather plain if viewed in older browsers. I then began to shift my designs
to XHTML strict (from transitional). So far, I've had no complaints.
Occasionally, one will ask why the site doesn't look the same in Netscape 4
and I just tell them that Netscape 4 is the worst piece of garbage ever
foisted on web site designers and the sooner it is consigned to oblivion,
the better.

I encourage everyone on this list to do the same.

Sincerely,
Charles F. Munat,
Seattle, Washington

P.S. Another thought:

Design on web sites is highly overrated. I've found sites with incredibly
amateurish designs (everything centered on one long page, for example). Any
graphic designer would rather die than create such pages. But when I show
them to friends as examples of bad design, I often hear "Well I don't
know... it looks OK to me."

The truth is that most people can't tell good design from bad design. And
even among those who can, they virtually never judge a site by its look: any
reasonably professional look will do. What they want is fast response and
easy access. They want to be able to understand the layout of the site
without a lot of work. In short, they want usability that looks good.

When designing web pages, think in terms of structure and function. Use good
design principles like grouping, contrast, repetition, and proper use of
white space (sadly lacking on most current sites). Make the site usable (to
everyone, regardless of disability), then make it reasonably pleasing to the
eye. That's all you really need.

If you're struggling to make a *particular* look work, then you've lost
sight of what's really important here: communication. Design is important,
but it doesn't have to be *that* design. Find another one that works both in
terms of enhancing communication and in terms of compatibility with the
current crop of browsers.

Just my two cents.

C.
Received on Wednesday, 13 December 2000 14:15:00 GMT

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