Use it or Luse it

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Jakob Nielsen is widely accepted to be a usability Guru -- So why do I not enjoy visiting his website then? I drop in to the homepage and then hit a wall. It (ironically) isn't obvious what content is available and how it is organized. My first thought is that it looks like a mocked up website with coloured boxes to show the managers where the content will go. I find it very distracting.

I wish it wasn't so ugly because I do like to check out his AlertBox articles. A recent AlertBox titled Let Users Control Font Size (Alertbox Aug. 2002) points out a long standing bug in IE where a website that uses absolute font sizes within CSS can't be modified via the View->Text Size menu. This means that if you have a font set to 12px on your website, then IE users can't do anything about it.

"Hooray!" say the print designers. "Now we're talking!"

"Boo!" say the old1 people. "Wake up and smell the medium!"

Dr. Nielsen then goes on to talk about "Improving Future Browsers" and starts using phrases like 'central database' and 'pre-fetch' with respect to how people get their font sizes set. it might be just me but I think there is likely an easier way of setting font preferenes than to store them centrally on a server on the Internet. Throw in his idea that the browser would also pre-fetch the preferred font-sizes for each link on a page you are viewing and I'm starting to think: huge waste of bandwidth.

A quick glance at Mozilla and it seems there is already a paradigm for doing what Jakob wants to do. Under the Mozilla tools menu we have: Form Manager, Cookie Manager, Image Manager, Password Manager and Popup Manager. Each of these managers allows you to control settings on a site-by-site basis. Don't want Amazon tracking your moves and clicks? Turn off cookies on Amazon.com. Tired of all the popups when you visit AOL? Turn off popups for the AOL domain.

So we just apply this concept to fonts. Want to always view the New York Times in 24pt MS Comic Sans? No problem. Tell Mozilla to use that setting for the nytimes domain. Mozilla's 'manager' solution seems to be very effective and I'm an avid user of the ones they currently provide. Font sizes are personal preferences. Not something that needs to be out-sourced to a central database and all that entails.

1By 'old' I mean mature. Old-skool. Internet-savvy. No offense to you blind old bats. :)

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This page contains a single entry by Dylan published on November 5, 2002 5:36 PM.

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