Design Like It’s 1999


I’ve been in the POD/ebook business and online making websites for twenty plus years now. Website hosts come and go. Book vendors come and go, both ebook and print-on-demand. Social media rises to prominence, pushing aside more secure private email discussion lists.

What I find funny is the so-called new design method for websites and apps. New? Really? Are you sure? Let me see. Do away with heavy buttons and loud backgrounds in favor of softer graphics, which are smaller and therefore take less time to load. Narrow the layout to fix inside 800 pixels wide, which accommodates most smartphones and tablets turned landscape. Avoid sidebars and footers, where possible. Make it soft, compact, and flowing.

Wait. Give me a moment to stop and have a good laugh. This is not a new way of designing web content. It’s how we did it in 1999, designing inside a 800W x 600H (in pixels) template for display on 13″ to 15″ monitors using slow dial-up internet. As DSL came into being along with large LED flat screen monitors, websites got bigger, wider, flashier.

Then came smartphones with their tiny display screens, creating a generation of squinty-eyed users turning their phones around and around, scrolling up and down, trying to make large websites work on their small devices. Most smartphones do now have larger display screens, and there are lots of good tablets with larger screens.

Here’s where it gets really funny. The “new” optimum design model (width by height in pixels) is to accommodate current mobile devices — drum roll, please — on 800W x 600H. If you stopped a moment to laugh, join the crowd. I laughed as I typed this.

Yes, the same design specs used in the late nineties are now being used to make web content fit mobile devices. And here’s another bit of irony. Although the older HTML-4 lacks some of the portal switches that morph web content to fit a small screen, it makes websites that are crisper, cleaner, and more stable with less security issues. In fact, I still use the older HTML on small websites. For example, CLICK HERE to see my domain home page. If you are using a mobile device, turn it landscape and scroll up/down. Poke the menu buttons to navigate the site. That is a 1999 HTML-4 design template. I guess the old saying that eventually everything old becomes new again also applies to website design.

[©2017 Terri Branson]

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