Professor claiming to teach 'web usability' makes classic mistake.

Despite the fact that Dr Dennis Jerz professes to be quite knowledgeable in web page design, and in fact has taught classes about it, his own weblog front page suffers from a classic newbie mistake that one would not expect to see on a professional web site. Newbies at web page design often attempt to “do things the cool way”, and when it doesn’t work out quite right, insist on sticking with it simply because of the amount of work put into it and it’s “coolness” factor. Dr Jerz recently decided to change from using tables for layout, the traditional and well established way to do web layout, to using a newer cascading style sheet layout on the front page of his weblog. Some of his users complained that they could no longer see his web page – for some reason, their browsers smushed his main page into a one character wide vertical line. So, to fix this compatibility problem, he gave the main section of his page a fixed width of 700px. Instead of the text gracefully wrapping itself to the size of the browser window, the text now leaves a really ugly white gap on the right hand side of his weblog. Even worse, on an 800×600 pixel display, a fairly common display setting in the web world, the right side of the text gets cut off which forces you to use the now present horizontal scroll bars to read his entries. In conclusion, after putting much time and effort into improving the front page of his weblog, Dr Jerz now has an uglier, less usable front page. Isn’t changing technology great? — Will GaytherProfessor claiming to teach ‘web usability’ makes classic mistake.E-mail)

Yeah, yeah. See what I have to put up with? Go ahead and gloat — I made a mistake.

I tried to do without the table in order to reduce the download time. Unless you give it a fixed width, the contents of a table don’t display until the whole table has been downloaded. When you use CSS columns, the text starts displaying right away, and then the browser redraws it if necessary. When it worked, the page seemed to load a few seconds faster… but as several Mac users pointed out, the results were often chaotic.

Will is a former student who created the weblog software I use, so I’m more than happy to let him poke fun at me. He’s absolutely right about how people (whether newbies or not) are reluctant to change things that they’ve worked hard on.

I’ll just note that in the title he suggested for this blog entry, he used double quotes, which I had to change to single quotes because because otherwise the “preview” button will mangle all the data! :P