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Because those wishing to email the Webmaster have probably found some problem with the design or function of the site, that same Webmaster has elected to explain his basic design philosophies here, so that perhaps some perceived problems will actually be found to be virtues of superior web design (!). However, on the off (again, !) chance that some real bug has appeared despite a great deal of testing, the manner of contacting the Webmaster has been included at the bottom.

Design Techniques

Issues of Media

I am firmly convinced that the Internet medium is not the same as print. While it certainly bears some similarity to print in many ways, it is a different medium and must therefore be treated differently. Similarities include the existence of text; the organization of that text into lines and paragraphs; often, the ordering of paragraphs into sections and subsections; and others which are doubtlessly important but do not require mentioning. Differences, however, include the lack of page breaks, and consequently the absence of a distinction between verso and recto pages; the lack of necessity for running headers or footers; the removal of the danger of a paragraph break coinciding with a page break, thus not requiring indentation of new paragraphs and making increased spacing between paragraphs a practical and useful option; the luminosity of the screen, as opposed to the reflective nature of a paper page; and many others. This means that the design of the site for screen viewing, undoubtedly its primary medium, must be different from its design on the printed page.

The differences in design will mostly be obvious, when the differences of the medium are remembered. I have already mentioned the differences in paragraph breaking; rather than indenting and not increasing the space, useful in a book when otherwise a page break after a period would produce an ambiguous paragraph break, I have followed the HTML standard and simply increased the spacing between paragraphs. Since there are no page breaks, no confusion should result. The luminosity of the screen is a harder nut to crack; this resulted in the use of an off-white for the background, a straight white being too bright and very hard on the eyes. A darker background in a printed book, however, would be most irritating, and make the book much more difficult to read. I have simply eliminated running headers and footers, since the title bar of the browser provides a perfectly effective and universally supported way of reminding people what page they are viewing, should they pay so little attention that they forget. I have, however, included a more obvious title bar at the top of each page and a link to the home at both top (the logo with the picture of little St. Maria) and bottom to facilitate navigation. Furthermore, near the top of each page I have provided a tool bar with links to all of the likely-visited sites; those likely to be more rarely sought (really, just this page, though others are linked there) I have limited to the bottom. Navigation should therefore be easy and straight-forward, and reading, even long-term, should not present abnormal difficulty.

The similarities in design may not be so obvious, but being a good traditionalist I have endeavored not to alter the lessons of biquennia of printing experience unless necessitated by the two dozen or so years of Web publishing savvy that I've tried to absorb. One of these lessons, which most Web designers completely ignore, is the desirability of certain fonts. Namely, serif fonts. Serif fonts are easier to read; they pull words together much more effectively than sans-serif, and consequently I've selected them as my choice in all situations, even those in which conventional wisdom (and, admittedly, printing experience) permit, but do not require, sans-serif. Another peeve of mine, also widely ignored throughout the Web, is text justification. Flush-left is great for headings and all, but text ought to be justified on both sides, not ragged-right. Experience tells us that justified text is easier to read; the line length is consistent and therefore the mind can unconsciously recall how much of it is left before shifting to the next line is required, which allows him to speed up his reading accordingly. Admittedly, text is not so beautiful justified in browsers as it is with a quality typesetting system, such as TeX and LaTeX; ligatures and automatic word-spacing controls just haven't entered the collective Web consciousness yet. But it's still much better than the often grotesquely inconsistent line length of ragged-right text, and CSS offers a very easy and reasonably effective way of doing it. So I've selected that option.

I selected HTML5 as my markup of choice. Prior to this year (11EE), the site was designed around XHTML 1.0 Transitional, and it maintained that basis long after XHTML was truly dead and gone. It turned out that XHTML just wasn't the way of the future, and that's okay; HTML5 has a lot of advantages (consistent and semantic markup; multimedia properties; and on and on), and it's much simpler than XHTML to author. (Check out the DTD on an XHTML document and compare it to that in an HTML5 document; that alone is worth the transition.)

So despite this relatively progressive stance in my markup, I think that I can still hold my head up high and deliver the following diatribe on contemporary web design with a straight and dignified face.

Rants on the Downfall of the Web

In all cases I have attempted to produce a site which is simply designed and easily used and navigated. A number of unfortunately common web accessories have come to interfere with that simple, pristine goal which once animated the entirety of the Internet. Among these are JavaScript, Flash animations, frames, tabular formatting of non-tabular data, and doubtlessly other, even more offensive monstrosities. While high-speed Internet access is fast becoming the standard, these toys seem to be useful primarily for slowing down the loading of the site. Furthermore, they unnecessarily obfuscate the code, making maintenance far more time-consuming and expensive than it needs to be, and it creates insuperable difficulties for those who still prefer to surf the Web using text-only browsers like Lynx, and for those who are forced to do so using aural browsers (the blind). Dane Weber, a good friend of mine, has produced a wonderful example of the JavaScript/frames problem; I encourage everyone who doubts this admittedly harsh condemnation to view it before making a judgement (though note that it is nearly impossible to back out of this example, providing yet another reason not to use the various tricks it employs, so unless you're using some outdated and badly designed browser it's probably best to enter it in a different tab).

While I do not, of course, have any problem with Flash, JavaScript, or tables for certain purposes, I simply refuse to use them for purposes for which they were not designed. I do not like pop-ups or any of the other eye-candy which JavaScript offers, and consequently I have limited the visual techno-shows on the site to what is available with basic HTML5 and CSS, the tools which could, if they become standard, make the Web what it was supposed to be: an open forum for easy and straightforward information exchange. Flash is a wonderful tool, where it belongs; I very much enjoy certain Flash creations and would not want to eliminate the animation language entirely. However, using Flash to animate menus and other design toys is a.) cheating in order to compensate for a probably lousy design, and b.) incredibly difficult for those mentioned above (text-only and blind surfers), and c.) unnecessary complication for generally very simple tasks. They slow down the loading of the site on top of all that. As for tables, I use them myself---for tabular data. They're great if you want to provide a table of prices, or rates of cancer increase, or other types of usually numerical data. They're also wonderful for grammatical charts (passé composé, anyone?), and doubtlessly many other uses. But they're not meant for formatting a web page. CSS provides an easy, unambiguous, and standards-compliant way to do anything that tabular formatting can possibly do, and to do it without causing problems for certain viewers. Before CSS I could tolerate such things; afterward there is no excuse. And frames? They were never useful; tabular formatting was much better even before CSS, and now they're simply a bane of every surfer's existence. What little good they could ever do is now gone.

I have therefore avoided complicated JavaScript, Flash animations, frames, and even tabular formatting except for tabular data. The HTML is written simply and as portably as possible, and as much formatting as possible is done via cascading style sheets, all of which conforms to industry standards. This site was written in accord with industry standards, and has passed the w3 validation tests. Therefore, it should be as easily viewed in one browser as in any other, and its appearance across all browsers and systems should be more or less uniform. Alas, however, the world is not a perfect place.

Browser Issues

That said, the reality is not as pristine as it should be, partly because certain companies persistently refuse to write software that reliably conforms to industry standards. This makes certain styling measures somewhat, shall we say, inconsistent. Some browsers, on the other hand, are exemplary in their conformity to those standards, and one such was therefore used in the development of this site. The browser used for testing the site was Mozilla Firefox, an open-source browser whose development is directed by Netscape. This browser is, therefore, doubtlessly the best with which to view this site. Furthermore, Mozilla is not only more in line with the ideas on intellectual goods held by Goretti Publications; it is also technically superior to Internet Explorer and even Opera. Its download and use are therefore highly recommended.

Otherwise, however, there should be no problems viewing the site. Lynx shouldn't be (too) upset by the formatting, done as it is by CSS, which Lynx (as far as I know) does not support. Old browsers which don't support CSS should not have a problem; I've viewed the pages without the stylesheet and, while the appearance is not so beautiful and well-designed (!), it's still acceptable and legible. If anyone does have trouble with any particular browser or tool, please let me know and I will do whatever I can to correct it, even if (as may well be the case) the fault is the browser's and not mine.

The site is also what is euphemistically called mobile-friendly; that is, it's designed to degrade gracefully when subjected to the limited viewing environment offered by mobile browsers. Primarily, this is done with a meta viewport; but also elements are sized relative to other elements, or in pixels, so that the page being squashed to cell-phone sizes will still at least be legible and usable, even if not particularly pretty. Google's test assures me that the site is mobile-friendly; but if you notice any problems with the site on small-form devices, please let me know.

Any Remaining Bugs

Despite my best efforts, however, certain bugs undoubtedly appear in certain circumstances, and consequently I, the Webmaster, wish to make myself available for reports of those bugs. Even that, however, must be more complicated than it has to be. I have been forced by the spamming industry to provide a spamproof method of contacting me by e-mail. Simply type in the address that you see garbled and mangled in the image below and I should get your report. Please let me know if there are any problems regarding downloading, broken links, or anything else on the site. If, in particular, you happen to authenticate the site on a whim and find that a page is not standards compliant, let me know; I will be appropriately shocked and immediately remedy the problem.

webmaster's email

If you have trouble reading the garbled and mangled image to the left, or you just can't view it (you have turned images off on your browser, or are heroically using a text-only browser like Lynx), you can enter in the address which I will (gorpub) be working (at) in ever so stealthily (gmail) throughout (dot) this paragraph (com). It is sad that spammers' ingenuity has outstripped all less distasteful methods of providing an email address. Thank you for your time in reporting errors in the site design and function, and thank you for your patronage of Goretti Publications.