[svlug] Browser problems

Karsten M. Self kmself at ix.netcom.com
Sun Dec 2 21:29:01 PST 2001

on Sun, Dec 02, 2001 at 07:31:16AM -0500, Bill Jonas (bill at billjonas.com) wrote:
> On Sun, Dec 02, 2001 at 01:31:33AM -0800, Karsten M. Self wrote:
> > If you're specifying a font face and size, you're violating this basic
> > tenet (you're in large, if bad, company).  Worst is if you specify
> > font size in points or pixels.
> I might as well jump in and ask for an opinion here.  On my site, I
> play a few stupid font tricks, but not many.  I never specify absolute
> sizes or a particular font, though, and it's only things like '<font
> size="+2">' and '<font size="-1">'.  It's mainly for subtly
> emphasizing and de-emphasizing certain sections of the page.  It
> displays well in text browsers.  In the opinion of the group, is this
> acceptable, or should the <font> tag be avoided entirely?

The official W3C response is that such gimmicks are to be deprecated
strongly and CSS used instead.

Unfortunately, this raises a number of other issues.  One site in
particular, The Register (http://www.theregister.co.uk/) specifies _line
heights_ in its CSS (http://www.theregister.co.uk/Themes/Normal/Style.css).

The "problem" they're trying to correct is this:

  - The Reg uses Arial rather than the users' specified default font.

  - Arial displays larger for a given point size than, say, Times Roman
    (a common default font) or Garamond (mine in particular).  So the Reg
    squashes their body face to 12 points.  Garamond is comfortable at
    about 16 points in my browser.  So that's four points too small.

  - Because they're conscious about presentation, the Reg ensures that
    the inter-line spacing is harmonious.  For the font face and size
    they've specified.  Which means that when I've extended the font
    size another four points, the line hight is several points too
    small.  Really pisses me off.

So my advice:  leave that shit well enough alone.

In *no* circumstances should you adjust the size of body text.  There is
some call to make text of other body components relatively larger or
smaller, but I'd say this speaks to poor design and should be avoided.

Relative sizes are preferable to absolute sizes, but only marginally.

You can adjust sizes through a CSS, which in theory gets around some of
the limitations of explicit presentation encoding in documents.  The
problem is that CSS opens the door much further in defining what _can_
be done to a webpage.  For one of the worse (IMVAO) examples of what can
be done with CSS, look no further than the W3C's own CSS page:


For a good overview of many of these issues, see:

    Toward a standard font size interval system
    Todd Fahrner, Verso


My own intended solution is to come up with a *user* CSS which
specifies, and explicitly overrides:

  - Font size, for base, +/-, and header elements.

  - Font face, for base and other elements.

  - Line height <sigh>.  Because it Needs To Be There®.

  - A margin.  I like to have a bit of whitespace between the edge of
    the text and the edge of the browser.

  - Other stuff As I See Fit®, possibly to include font and background
    color (it would be particularly nice to have "smart" color rendering
    to allow light backgrounds, but of no more than a certain saturation
    or less than a certain brightness), and other annoyances as I run
    across them.

One of the saving graces of the revised CSS spec is that the *user*
overrides the author on elements, with the "!important" keyword
(otherwise, author specs supersede users).  Frankly, *I* want control
over how crap renders.


Karsten M. Self <kmself at ix.netcom.com>       http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?             Home of the brave
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Geek for Hire                     http://kmself.home.netcom.com/resume.html
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