Anal Site Design? Or Thoughtful Layout Decision?

ANAL SITE DESIGN?….OR THOUGHTFUL LAYOUT DECISION?….Many thanks to everyone who’s come to visit the new site, and especially to those who have already left comments. Posting comments is a lot more satisfying than writing me an email that no one else will ever see, and I hope that having a lively comments section will make CalPundit even more fun for everyone.

The redesign is also a good excuse to explain something that I get asked about occasionally (and that also showed up in some of the comments about the new design): the fact that my site design is fixed. The main text column is set at 600 pixels wide and the font is set to 11 points and can’t be changed. Why?

Fair warning: I know there are lots of good reasons to be more flexible about this, but I’m afraid on this issue I have a heart of stone. Still, I figure the least I can do is explain, so here goes.

  • The entire site is (approximately) 800 pixels wide so that it can be viewed on an 800×600 screen.

  • Allowing 200 pixels for the sidebar leaves 600 pixels for the main text column.

  • The font is 11 points because at that size the line length is approximately 80-100 characters, which readability research shows to be an ideal length.

Now, you may be thinking that this is all very fine, maybe even sort of interesting in a geeky kind of way, but even so why not allow the font size and column width to be changed for people who don’t want to be bound by what a bunch of hoity toity academic researchers say is the best line length? Why indeed? Am I just anal?

Perhaps, but the more charitable explanation is that I frequently use pictures in my posts and I’m pretty careful about how I place them. By predefining the column width and font size, I can ensure that my layout will look the same no matter where it’s being viewed.

I’m afraid that my addiction to careful layout is the result of years and years of journalism training, technical writing, and marketing work, and there’s nothing to be done about it at this point. I like the blog a lot better when it looks the way I want it to, and my mental stability is, after all, critical to keeping this endeavor going. Sadly, a few people with tiny monitors or browsers that render the font very small have to pay the price for my idiosyncrasies.

Other issues, however, are more easily taken care of. TrackBack, for example, has now been turned on, and apparently I also now have an RSS feed, although I don’t recall actually doing anything to get this. Can someone out there confirm that this is true?

Donate Now to the Washington Monthly and your gift will be doubled