Author Books Journalism Information
If you wonder why the website looks the way it does, or why my HTML is "inside out" (a comment I've received before), this is the right page to read. It's not long, but it sets out my fundamental philosophy of web design.
I've organized it as a question-and-answer session, much like the F.A.Q., because that works well.
Why don't you have many graphics?
Because I feel that it would be inappropriate for a site about books. Also, I'm still pandering (at least somewhat) towards people who have slow connections to the internet. The site works well over a modem, and you don't need to wait five minutes for the page to load.
In fact, the front page has only three "constant" graphics: the banner, a background behind the banner (which you can't really see) and the vertical bar on the left, behind the menu bar. They're not very big, so I feel it's justified. I also occasionally have what might be called "seasonal graphics" in that they're only up in book season. If a book is about to come out, the picture is on the front page.
What about Flash?
I'm not a big fan of Flash. And for those who don't know, Flash is the name of a program by Macromedia; I'm not saying that I dislike flashy things. The purpose of Flash is to create interactive graphical environments or animations without using a lot of space. The problem with respect to this website is that there's no place I could use it where it would feel appropriate. I could put up a Flash-based introduction page if I wanted to, but it would only get in the way of the rest of the page.
That's not to say that Flash doesn't have legitimate uses. It's just that there are no legitimate uses that would provide an advantage for this website.
But you use CSS. Why is that okay but Flash isn't?
I use CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) because compared to Flash, CSS is very easy to edit. I suppose I could achieve many of my website goals with Flash instead, but I wouldn't be able to edit it in thirty seconds using a generic text editor.
You also don't use frames. Why not?
Because on some deep level, I hate frames. I really do. I want the website to not only have pages that are consistent with each other, but consistent within themselves. And while I understand the utility of a menu bar that's always in one place and never scrolls, it just doesn't appeal to me on an aesthetic level with regards to this site. At all.
Why is all your text black on a bland background instead of something cooler?
Dark text on a light background is easiest to read. There have been studies done showing that other colors (white text on black being the main alternative) cause more eyestrain. I don't know how trustworthy those studies are, but they sound right. I've tried other ways and this way looks the most calm.
Also, this is a site about books. Books generally use black text on a white background.
Why does your HTML look inside out?
That question probably makes no sense to people who have never made a webpage by hand before. But those people who have made a webpage by hand usually spot the issue immediately: Each line (or most lines, anyway) start with >< instead of just <, and most of my lines lose the > at the end.
The answer is really quite simple (if nerdy). If you have an EOL that isn't inside a tag, you get an extra space. This will sometimes create "tails" on pictures, cause things to not center properly, and generally make things go nuts. So I try to have every EOL either fall inside a block of running text or inside a tag. And the easiest way to do that is to take the > from the end of every line and just drop it down to the next line.
I apologize to anyone who didn't understand a word of that. I did say that the answer was nerdy.
So you really write everything by hand? Why?
Yes, I do. I use a program called BBEdit, which is a text editor. True, it's got a lot of very powerful and nice features, but when all's said and done, it's a text editor. I've used other programs in the past, but they've all been simple text editors. And yes, that does mean that I've written webpages with vi.
As for the why of it, it's because I'm a control freak. I don't want a picture to be near the center of a page. I want it to be centered to the pixel. I want the text to align perfectly. And I also want the HTML to be straightforward, simple, and clean. I want someone to be able to look at the raw HTML and say "Yeah, I can see what he's doing."
But with a lot of HTML-creating programs, exactly the opposite is the result. The pages are a mess of tables (most useless), extra spacing elements that accomplish nothing, mysterious meta-tags that have no apparent function, and a lot of legal bafflegab that implies that the company that made the HTML editor may possibly own your soul. Or something. Frontpage is notorious for that kind of thing (to use just one example).
And yes, the HTML-creating programs have gotten better. But that doesn't mean they've gotten good. What I do works for me, and if I did it some other way, it would probably stop working for me.
Are you really this arrogant in real life?
I'm not actually as arrogant as you might think. I do have some strong opinions with regards to websites, but I've been writing webpages for a decade now, and that's about as long as websites have existed. So when I say that I believe such-and-such about web design, I usually feel that I've got enough experience to justify it.
Yes, it might be arrogance of a sort, but at least it's well-informed arrogance.
4 January 2013
The Prey series, the Virgil Flowers series, the Kidd series, The Night Crew, Dead Watch, The Eye and the Heart: The Watercolors of John Stuart Ingle, and Plastic Surgery: The Kindest Cut are copyrighted by John Sandford. All excerpts are used with permission.
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