How not to promote yourself to potential customers

nickshanks's picture

I was looking around at the websites of typographers earlier today, and came across the site of one independent designer (whom I shall not name) which looked so broken on my computer I had to email him and explain what was wrong with his HTML and CSS, and how standards-compliant coding practices would rectify them. I am a professional web developer and like to educate others about web standards and accessibility, to help improve the web in my own little way. The response I got back, however, shocked me:

"These are all visual problems caused by your settings. The site was meant to be viewed the way I designed it. I won't tailor the site to meet every possible variable of every combination of browser customizations."

My 'settings and customisations' were choosing a preferred font other than Times, increasing the minimum font size, and increasing the line height in my browser's preferences. This is so that I do not encounter illegible text. I am short-sighted, and my sight gets worse later in the day when my eyes tire or I start to slouch.
These are standard preferences that every browser has available, and I know most people who care about type aesthetics (i.e. the design‐orientated folks likely to his web site) will set such preferences to their liking.

There is no need to specifically code to "meet every possible variable", by using a flexible layout, and realising that the web is not the printed page—you do not have absolute control over how your site looks on your visitors machines—you can produce a site that looks great on everyone's screen, regardless of their preferred font size.

I reminded him that the only computer on which his site can "be viewed the way he designed it" was his own. I will no longer be recommending this designer to my clients. I hope the people coming to this forum are not as narrow minded.

− Nicholas Shanks,
Mac & Web Developer.

Si_Daniels's picture

>I am a professional web developer

If the unnamed designer is claiming to be a Web designer then they should value your feedback.

If however they are licensing fonts to companies or graphic designers then having a rubbish web site won't hold them back - especially if they use distributors to interface directly with the paying customers. A good example of someone not held back...

>and like to educate others

I have a neighbor with a similar hobby ;-)

hrant's picture

Certainly don't recommend him as a web designer! But people have different skills and preferences, and a font is not a website, so no longer recommending him as a type designer seems petty and self-validating.


aluminum's picture

"The site was meant to be viewed the way I designed it."

This is why a lot of architects, photographers, etc sites have really crappy web sites. It's in the nature of a visual designer to want to have control and it's hard to let that go when putting yourself online.

spiral's picture

"Best viewed in internet explorer 4" "Optimized for netscape" "Flash 9.5 and minimum resolution 1024x768 required"

I would have hoped that mentality died around 2001...

Dan B.'s picture

I agree with everything that has been said. I'm not a web designer, but I do try to educate myself concerning best web practices and standards. I'm not even a real graphic designer. I'm more of an enthusiast. But when it comes to the internet, I applaud most attempts to make the web look more like print if they end up being accessible too. A good example would be Jason Santa Maria.

All of this brings me to my point: I dislike the idea of overriding the font choices consciously (and hopefully wisely) made by the designer of the site with your preferred setting. While that might not be a problem in fluid layouts (which almost invariably look awful), it can be with a fixed layout. I myself "care about type aesthetics" and that is why I never change the browser's viewing preferences to my liking because I want to view the site the way the designer intended. He chose, per se, Georgia over Verdana, because that's what compliments his layout and design best.

Let me add a disclaimer, Nick, in that your short-sightedness warrants tampering with these settings, but wouldn't Ctrl+scroll do enough while, at the same time, "preserving" the design? I'd find the web to be extremely bland were it set in just Verdana (or Arial!)... It's an interesting topic nonetheless, so if anyone cares to share their opinion, please do.

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