Regarding Web Pages & Unnecessary Complexity
by Michael Caine
Sporadically, I embark on crusades to force the World Wide Web as displayed on my desktop to conform to my own notions of reasonable choices for fonts, spacing, and so forth. I simply get annoyed by web pages that use three different serif fonts, three different sans serif fonts, in several sizes, some in bold and some not, some in color and some not. While there may be subtle – but possibly of artistic importance – differences between the Oxygen and Verdana fonts, I see no reason to use both of them on the same page. No doubt this sort of attitude reflects my age. I’m old enough to recall when HTML pages were about content and structure, and details like fonts were intentionally left in the hands of the end user.
In everything I’ve ever done professionally, one of the important concepts was “unnecessary complexity is always the enemy.” I’m somewhat discouraged by the project this time, but I haven’t given up – it is a crusade, after all. It’s actually surprising how much of the time it’s possible to make reasonable guesses about what function a piece of text is serving and adjust its appearance accordingly. But I have been reminded of the old saying that it’s not how gracefully the bear dances that’s amazing, it’s that the bear dances at all. I have a new appreciation for the fact that it’s not how fast (or slowly) contemporary web pages load, or how attractive (or not) they are, but that they load at all.
Photo credits: The dancing bear from Wikimedia Commons. Firebug “examine element” screen capture by the author.