Re: Real layout

At 20:38 -0500 1/16/97, Dave Raggett wrote:

> The idea that good layout can be distilled to a few rules plus some
> declarative annotations intrigues me. As the window size is increased,
> the rules adjust the spacing accordingly, but this is interrupted by
> phase changes (ice into water into steam) which cause more dramatic
> effects, e.g. switching from a single column to a multiple column layout.

A major question on my mind is whether the emerging script/object models
will deliver this kind of functionality, building on a very simple CSS, or
whether CSS itself can (or should) become self-sufficient, allowing for
interdependencies like leading being a function of line length, font size,
and the ratio of x-height to em of the face. The former approach can
probably deliver the goods faster, but at the cost of prohibitively
difficult authoring and inconsistent browser support. I'm inclined to favor
the latter approach: develop CSS to support rules and simple functions,
keeping the stylist's activity mostly declarative.

> The Web has yet to explore paged displays, sticking to the safer
> territory of scrolling windows. Layout principles based upon ideas
> of symmetry for positioning and scaling images seem very attractive
> based upon analysis of glossy periodicals.

Such as?

> My analysis suggests that
> it would be relatively easy to author documents using these richer
> ideas. Much easier than the current over-reliance on tables, single
> pixel gifs and font tags!

Harumph! Imagine that you're flying over a remote wilderness area in a
white gyrocopter, and below you see "S O S" spelled out in twisted metallic
debris on a hillside. As you approach you see squallor, corpses,  and the
smoke from a DTD rising feebly from a firepit beside a lean-to made of
single-pixel GIFs. A few insane survivors brandish their ascii daggers -
markup cannibals! And you remark "ghastly! so inelegant! - wings used as
letters. And they're using tables for nontabular information
representation." So you fly off to seek funding to start an anthropological
expedition.... That's what I think of when I hear about how inelegant the
current state of web design is. No arguments here, sir! No offense
intended, either - I couldn't resist.

> Today's emphasis on absolute positioning using pixels seems so weak,
> although understandable from the perspective of people still firmly
> wedded to paper.

Ah - but a good print designer designs dynamically, taking the display's
aspect and size into full account. It's just that paper has a refresh rate
of One.

> This seems a very fertile territory for research projects.

I'd much prefer a public beta myself!

Todd Fahrner

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