Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Web Content Organization and Fonts

Most of Kilian's third chapter in Writing for the Web is overly-worded common sense. There are, however, a few important points and at least one thing I disagree with him about.

Having each page of your website be able to stand alone is important, especially if you have a variety of content. Google will send your reader only to the page about whatsits and the majority of them will be totally unable to navigate their way back to your homepage. It also helps people who did come in through the homepage, but have forgotten some important thing about you and don't want to back up. Finally, it helps you with one of the most important things about writing for the web and writing in all forms: continuity. People need cues, and stuff needs to look familiar.

I know some people think pointing this out is a joke - now that blogging software makes the layout for you and prompts you to put in your About Me and your Navigation and your Links. When frames were the big thing, people got stuck in them or missed the navigation or missed the content pages. When Iframes were the big thing, people would get your individual web pages without the navigation sections.  Sure, it's no big deal for me to go to the top of my address bar and take out the individual page file name and hit enter, but people new to the Internet aren't going to get that - and you shouldn't expect them to. People don't have to stay on your page, and if you make it difficult, they just won't.

On page 44, Kilian says, "You should be generating your webtext in whatever font and size are comfortable for you."

No. No, you shouldn't. You should do some research first, and see what looks good, and see what people hate. Sure, it sounds like common sense. But do you know how many horrible web pages with bright blue Comic Sans there are out there? Old English? Papyrus? Kristin? Your font for the body of your webtext should be a simple, easy-to-read font that does not detract from the message in your text. Try invisible fonts like Verdana, Arial, Times, Tahoma, Georgia, Helvetica - anything that isn't overly embellished. Check out this humorous article from Cracked (note: some language, and I don't agree with everything said here) and this more serious font article; if you got IPFW's English Department newsletter last semester, there's also an article about fonts there (by yours truly).

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