Simon Willison is collecting his excellent series of writeups on practical CSS magic under the rubric CSS ain’t Rocket Science. He should be wrong, it should be like rocket science: predictable, deterministic, with an engineering ruleset saying How To Do It. Except for the tools are broken. To be specific, Microsoft’s tool is broken. And in recent news, apparently they don’t care. Which is maybe just fine.
Pixels Suck ·
What happened was, I got email from Pablo Montilla gently chiding me for
having ongoing’s font sizes in pixels rather than something sensible like ems
percentages or a keyword like
small, so that IE users like him
could resize it if they find my choice too small or large.
So I determined to Do The Right Thing Dammit, and I have now invested several hours trying to figure out how to have nicely-resizeable fonts and still have it look decent in at least the popular browsers. At the same time, I want to switch to a serif font for the main body of ongoing because it was beaten into me many years ago that body copy of substantial size Must Always Be In Serif; I’d like Palatino, if only because the italics look so great.
Hah, easier said than done; two or three hours of this are water under the bridge and you’re still reading sans-serif pixel-sized fonts. I’ve invested substantial time with Simon’s advice and the other good stuff he links to, and now I see how I’m gonna do it, but there’s lots more work in front of me. This really sucks.
I Blame Microsoft · (I’ve always wanted to use that as a headline. Try it sometime, it feels good.) But really, I do. The problem isn’t that CSS is too hard. The problem isn’t browser incompatibilities in general. The problem is specifically that Microsoft Internet Explorer is a mouldering, out-of-date, amateurish, out-of-date pile of dung. Did I say it’s out-of-date? As in past its sell-by, seen better days, mutton dressed as lamb, superannuated, time-worn. It’s so, like, you know, so twentieth-century.
The Non-Answer · Scoble told us not to bother our pretty little heads, because Google works just fine in Longhorn. Which is scheduled for 2005, but they’ll say more in October.
This suggests a Nineties turn of phrase: They Just Don’t Get It. Every ambitious web designer in the world is investing their customers’ and employers’ money in arcane, complexified, kludged-up hacks to work around IE’s broken box model and pixel-font weirdness and sub-one-em microscopism. Failing that, they’re doing like me and sizing in pixels, with adverse effects on accessibility.
Let me see, this is the company that claims to care about a great user experience above all else. And what program, I ask, do most users spend most of their time in? The web browser.
The Upside · Here’s a table I first posted back on April 23, the browser population seen by ongoing between February and April:
Here’s a secret, boys and girls. That number in the top right corner is not going up. Just suppose 2005 rolled around and Longhorn shows up and a lot of people are used to Mozilla 2.8 and Opera 9.2 and Safari 3.1, and they just genially ignore whatever the built-in browsing capability is?
I keep hearing that Longhorn won’t really have a separate browser, it’ll all just be an integrated part of the OS. That sounds to me like a really good reason to steer clear and participate in a competitive technical ecosystem.
Of course, Microsoft could try to make use of the Longhorn built-in compulsory. Last time they did that, it got them into legal trouble, but it did achieve the objective (cutting off Netscape’s air supply). So I wouldn’t be surprised to see an attempt.