[svlug] Browser problems

Karsten M. Self kmself at ix.netcom.com
Mon Dec 3 18:16:02 PST 2001

on Mon, Dec 03, 2001 at 09:21:01AM -0800, Arlo Belshee (arlo.belshee at horizongot.com) wrote:
> on Sunday, December 02, 2001 1:32 AM, Karsten M. Self explained:
> >
> > A few points, largely amplifying what's been said.
> >
> > The first law of the web is:  user determines presentation.
> Unfortunately, while that's nice in theory, and is the frame of mind
> within which the web was built, it fails to meet business (and other
> related) needs. 

The first irony is that Arlo's post used long line widths -- about 90
characters from the look of it.  So I reflowed the post (about five
seconds work with mutt and vim).

The medium is fundamentally malleable.

> Philosphically, it is commendable, and as long as the only web users
> and the only web publishers are techies, it works well in practice,
> but observe the following business scenario (pulled randomly out of a
> hat):
> J. Random business is organizing an advertising campaign around a new
> product launch. They have decided the three message points that they
> want everyone to learn, have identified their target audience, and have
> determined what image they want to express.  Furthermore, they have
> identified how they want it to fit into their overall company brand.
> They hand this information off to their advertising production group.
> The advertising production group determines what media they are going to
> use. In this example, the target audience would be best fit by a TV,
> trade journal and radio awareness campaign, working in tandem with a
> web-based and distributor-based product education campaign. So, they
> need all of these component to tie together in the minds of the target
> audience - the need to see something on TV, do a search, and find a site
> that looks just like what they saw on TV - otherwise they tend to think
> that they've come to the wrong place, and vanish forever. 

"Just like" offers a number of variables.  Sufficient branding comes
from (IMO) logo, brand names, and, possibly, color elements relatively
close to what you're used to seeing for the firm.  The last is already
going to fail markedly for many monitors as gamma varies widely (the
particular laptop display I'm using is tuned for indoor, incandescent,
light, and looks decidedly orange under natural (outdoor) lighting

Moreover, with the proliferation of devices -- handhelds, cell phones,
and wearables -- tight branding isn't going to be possible, and the
requirement will drive up development and maintenance costs

Study Jakob Nielsen, he gets it.


> They need to see the same graphical elements, in the same
> presentation, as they saw on TV. 

Really?  How many TV ads focus tightly on website presentation?  This
isn't just a rhetorical question -- I don't generally watch any TV, and
see little in the way of web-related advertising.  With the exception of
dot.coms (a lost breed) and some TV news and information sites, I can
think of few instances of companies displaying a long, tight shot of a
web page.

Face it, there are a hell of a lot of products which are marketed with
branding campaigns that have little or no bearing on reality.  Match the
product to the campaign [1]:

  A. Golden, rolling, hills; road; fog; car driving down road.
  B. Golden light, field, woman dancing through the wheat.
  C. Golden light, meadow, kids and dogs.
  D. Golden, rolling, hills; road; fog; rollerbladers skating down road.
  E. Golden light, Asian woman, open spaces.
  F. Golden light, fields, jazz song.
  G. Peace symbol, heart, penguin.

  1. Feminine napkins.  Yeast medications.
  2. Analgesics.
  3. Allergy medicine.
  4. Airline.
  5. Long distance phone services.
  6. Automobiles.
  7. IBM

Tight branding indeed.

> They need to see similar message points, with the same layout, but
> with further explaination. Most importantly, the product image and how
> it ties into the brand are tied _directly_ to the graphical layout of
> the page - the differences between sleek, sexy, silky, and so on are
> very subtle, and require fine-grained control of all graphical and
> text elements to carry out. 

Two comments:

  - Some advertising companies no doubt feel exactly as you do.  They're
    full of it.

  - Bullshit.

> They business needs absolute control of presentation. This is its
> corporate image - do you really expect them to let fate determine how
> the masses view them?

You neglect to consider whether they've got the choice.

The key (and this is a message I've been trying to hammer into friends
of mine who're doing web graphics, online layout, and similar tasks) is
that the plasticity of the medium is a fundamental aspect of it.  Deal.

> In other words, the business needs absolute control over how this will
> be seen by users. If they don't have it, their advertising loses much of
> its effectiveness - the message is muddied. 

No.  You come up with branding that survives this aspect.


> Thus, I must disagree heartily with:

Funny, I was just getting around to writing that myself.

> > Font face and size are, by default, selectable by the user.  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.
> True for the technology.
> The reason that there's so much company on that side of the line is
> that there is a tremendous need to be on that side of the line.  It
> can be measured in real dollars.

Fundamental problem for your proposition:  free software:  the pushers,
excuse me, content generators, don't control it.  Look at Mozilla, a
nominally corporately-driven product (Time-Warner/AOL, Netscape), and
where it's headed.  Projects challenging Mozilla (Konqeror, Dillo), or
utilizing its core technology (Galeon (rocks!), Skipstone, K-Melleon),
have included a host of options to allow the user to override
authors' preferences, including the aformentioned font, color, and CSS
overrides, as well as image and site blocking, cookie management,
and Java/Javascript/plugin overrides.  Additional techologies can be
layered through proxies, including Junkbuster, WebWasher, anonymizers,
and other services.

> Thus the technology is fundamentally flawed.

Your premise is fundamentally flawed.  You're describing a world that
doesn't exist.  The medium is fundamentally malleable.

> The technology fails to meet the needs of a huge (at this point probably
> the largest, and certainly the wealthiest) group of its users.

They don't control the user experience.

To spare list bandidth, allow me:

    $ while echo "The client controls the user experience"; do :; done

...study the output for a while.



1.  Answers:  does it really matter?  If the branding works, you know
    the answer(s).  If it doesn't, you don't.

    NB:  the road I'm describing is Ridgecrest Blvd., on Mt. Tam (north
    of San Francisco).  It's been used in thousands of commercial spots,
    print and video.

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
  http://gestalt-system.sourceforge.net/                   Land of the free
   Free Dmitry! Boycott Adobe! Repeal the DMCA! http://www.freesklyarov.org
Geek for Hire                     http://kmself.home.netcom.com/resume.html
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