Questionable typography at the new Sapient site.
June 26, 2001 12:08 PM   Subscribe

Questionable typography at the new Sapient site. I don't care who your target audience is, you have to use the proper amount of leading! The body copy's ascenders and descenders overlap, for crying out loud!
posted by dayvin (70 comments total)
 
Um... Are you sure? It looks fine to me.... No overlapping in sight.
posted by fujikodunc at 12:12 PM on June 26, 2001


Huh? What browser are you using? Looks fine here.

(looks at style sheet)

Aha. They're setting line-height and font-size in ems. Bad idea.
posted by rodii at 12:13 PM on June 26, 2001




Obviously browser-dependent.

BTW, Fucked Company says more layoffs at Sapient this week, and 50% gone by end of July. I know several people at the Cambridge location, I wonder if they know about it.
posted by briank at 12:17 PM on June 26, 2001


(er, crap, that example fails in netscape 4). dayvin - which pages did you mean, and what browsers were you looking in?
posted by artlung at 12:19 PM on June 26, 2001


rodii, artlung: I'm using IE6/Win2000, text size at the standard "Medium" setting. I've since checked the site on IE5/Mac, and everything's cool with that combination.
posted by dayvin at 12:21 PM on June 26, 2001


There's actually quite a bit of leading from my end..... more than most actually.....
Lay off the acid. :-)
posted by Espoo2 at 12:24 PM on June 26, 2001


Checked and fine in:

IE 5.5 PC
IE 5.0 Mac
NN 6 PC
NN 4.7 PC
NN 6 Mac
Opera 5 PC
opera 5 Mac

If there is a problem, my guess is that it is related to the units used (em) in the stylesheet and probably only affecting Mac users who are not using the latest browser versions.
posted by saturn5 at 12:25 PM on June 26, 2001


Looks fine to me (IE5.5. win '98). Maybe a Screen Shot Dayvin?

IE 6 is still a beta, right?
posted by alan at 12:26 PM on June 26, 2001


What are we, K10K?
posted by TiggleTaggleTiger at 12:28 PM on June 26, 2001


Dayvin, as I'm sure you are well aware, IE 6 is still in beta. Therefore it's premature to find fault in anything but the browser itself. Does IE 6 beta have a bug report form?
posted by saturn5 at 12:29 PM on June 26, 2001


Yeah, but why gray, squintingly-small type?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:32 PM on June 26, 2001


It's the ems, folks. Ems are a great idea, horribly implemented.
posted by rodii at 12:34 PM on June 26, 2001


looks fine in IE5/mac too - but using ems in a stylesheet is just a baaaaad idea ... pixels is the only way to go
posted by mschmidt at 12:36 PM on June 26, 2001


I'm in IE 5.5/Win ME, with 1152x864 resulution and fonts also set and the standard "medium", and those pages are unreadable. Here's what it looks like to me.
posted by tomorama at 12:40 PM on June 26, 2001


My biggest problem here is that it really doesn't say anything, no matter what it looks like (and I've churned out my share of meaningless e-business buzzword crapola).
posted by trox at 12:42 PM on June 26, 2001


Sure, it doesn't say anything, but look how pretty it is!
posted by ayedub at 12:50 PM on June 26, 2001


Yeah this site totally looks like shit in Cyber Dog 2.0! Who are these Sapient losers and why doesn't their site work in MY browser? All kidding aside, the Sapient site is gorgeous and it works fine in IE 5, Win NT 4.0.

Meanwhile, someone takes a shot at k10k and Mschmidt is one of the people responding to the thread...
posted by SuperBreakout at 1:02 PM on June 26, 2001


It's un-readable in IE 5.0 Win98.
posted by iscavenger at 1:08 PM on June 26, 2001


Those of you who cannot read the text, have you changed the default font size in your browser? My new thinking is that it's just an issue of browser settings. If the stylesheet uses ems as the unit for font sizing, the end-user is able to override the font size with the browser's font size setting feature. The user can not override the stylesheet if the font sizes are in pixels (px).
posted by saturn5 at 1:17 PM on June 26, 2001


I have no idea what most of this font, em, stylesheet and other tech thing is all about. Simply putP I can not read that page and I can read all the other pages I go to routinely.
posted by Postroad at 1:23 PM on June 26, 2001


I haven't changed my default font size; I think it's still the stylesheet. When I do increase my font size, the leading problem is still there. It's most noticable when I highlight the text in question. Again, I'm using IE6.

I would be interested to find some other sites that use ems in their stylesheets, and see if the same problem exists.
posted by dayvin at 1:31 PM on June 26, 2001


Let's put it this way... any designer that makes their text unreadable (as it is in my browser) is asking for what they get -- potential customers who won't bother with their site.

As a user I am not going to change my default font size just to use your site. If you haven't tested your site on the multitudes of browsers, screen resolutions, and user-option settings (and you work for a company of this nature or size), you deserve to go bankrupt.

I don't care if the browser is broken, or if the stylesheet is broken, or whatever. The end result is the same -- I am not going to change my behavior for your site, so you'd better change your site to suit my (and every other users') behavior, or lose that page view.
posted by yarf at 1:37 PM on June 26, 2001


Whatever the cause, isn't it the design firm's responsibility to make sure their site works reasonably well with all browser/platform configurations? Especially when you consider the heaping bags of cash that Sapient charges for their services, I would expect a higher degree of compatibility. So I guess I won't hire them...
posted by spilon at 1:42 PM on June 26, 2001


Yarf, I agree with your position but entertain me for a sec. Which browser/platform are you viewing the site with and what is the broswer font setting?

thx
posted by saturn5 at 1:45 PM on June 26, 2001


If you haven't tested your site on the multitudes of browsers, screen resolutions, and user-option settings (and you work for a company of this nature or size), you deserve to go bankrupt.

...spoken like someone who doesn't know what he/she is talking about. Of course websites should be cross-browser and cross-platform compliant. But that kind of "deserve to go bankrupt" talk is part of this anti-designer backlash that everyone's so fond of these days.

I am not going to change my behavior for your site

That isn't at all what's happened here. The beta version of IE6, apparently, has some trouble with fonts displayed in em units. It isn't a case of the site designers saying "well, screw the user if they have a browser that doesn't like em units". The site works with virtually all other browsers, from what I've read above.

When IE released beta 6, should the Sapient designers tested their site with it? Yes. But there's this whole school of thought brewing out there that site designers have a "screw the user" mentality, and that simply isn't the case.

Let's see: Win3.1, Win95, Win98, WinME, Win2000, WinXP. MAC OS (I don't know) 6 through X? A dozen Linux'es. A dozen UNIX'es. IE (again, I don't know) 3 through 6beta? Netscape 3 through 6 (.1?). Opera. Mozilla...the list goes on.

There are hundreds of possible OS/browser combinations out there, and it's extremely difficult to test for them all.

Did the Sapient guys f' up here? You bet. But anyone who thinks they had some sort of grudge against the user just doesn't know what they're talking about.
posted by jpoulos at 1:58 PM on June 26, 2001


Hey, check out the lousy reception on channel 4. Can you believe all that static? What is this, the seventies?
posted by owen at 2:02 PM on June 26, 2001


Why should web site designers be allowed to create unreadable text in the first place? Why do browsers let them get away with this?

-Mars
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:08 PM on June 26, 2001


I checked it out in IE5.5 on Windows2000 and it looks like crap. I can understand somewhat when a designer doesn't get Netscape 4.7 on Linux right, but IE5.5/PC looking bad is just unacceptable.
posted by jragon at 2:08 PM on June 26, 2001


ok, have we indulged in enough schadenfreude now?

defined
posted by o2b at 2:09 PM on June 26, 2001


btw jragon, my IE5.5/Win2k looks fine, which only tells us that this is not an issue that can be nailed down to any particular browser/os combination.

ems. baad.
posted by o2b at 2:12 PM on June 26, 2001


I just reinstalled windows2000 and IE5.5 last week, so I'm thinking I've got a pretty standard install. I also don't touch my font sizes.

Hm. Go figure.
posted by jragon at 2:15 PM on June 26, 2001


btw jragon, my IE5.5/Win2k looks fine, which only tells us that this is not an issue that can be nailed down to any particular browser/os combination.

please ignore my comments above.

I, too, have moments of cluelessness. :-)
posted by jpoulos at 2:20 PM on June 26, 2001


win2k IE5.5 default as default can be and it looks fine.

As any programmer will tell you. 'Must be a hardware problem.'

(em's still suck ;)
posted by Mick at 2:33 PM on June 26, 2001


Win98 and IE5.5 here. Looks fine once I adjust my browser back to medium. I'm not sure how or when it got set smaller, but it was cranked down to smallest.

One should never, EVER use pixels to describe anything. This is a fluid medium and browser windows can be resized, differing resolutions, differing dots per inch between OSes being the biggest reason not to use pixels. Just use percentages for positioning and size and using ems correctly for font is fine.
posted by Spanktacular at 2:43 PM on June 26, 2001


One should never, EVER use pixels to describe anything.

what would you have us use? keywords?

we use pixels because they are the only unit that WORK cross browser/platform.

never mind look the same.
posted by o2b at 3:07 PM on June 26, 2001


Let me offer a slightly different point of view here. It's not necessary to test every type or browser and platform. You figure out what your target audience tends to use, test as many possibilities and variations of that as is practical (time and budget allowing), and you've mimized your risk level pretty substantially. Who of us would actually be in the position to hire these folk?


On the other hand, not having all their "what we do" text in the "print this page" window just shows how little they value their own jibberish, so go figure. Not to mention that they leave links to their "big" version of the site in it... in a non-resizeable window.... That's just plain sloppy.
posted by bison at 3:10 PM on June 26, 2001



we use pixels because they are the only unit that WORK cross browser/platform....

ah, but you forget about opera for mac.... sorry about being picky there.
posted by lotsofno at 3:15 PM on June 26, 2001


IE 6.0, win98, 1024x768: the page looks fine to me. tomorama: judging by your screenshot you have your browser's text size set at "smaller," so that's why it's unreadable.
posted by Chairman_MaoXian at 3:24 PM on June 26, 2001


You have to enable Smart Tags in IE6 for ems to work properly.
posted by mrbula at 3:28 PM on June 26, 2001


o2b, just go and read ALA once in a while ok? Pixels are not as cross-platform as you think.
posted by Spanktacular at 3:41 PM on June 26, 2001


Maybe, if the leading was all messed up, you missed this:

If you have questions or comments about this site, e-mail www@sapient.com.

That might be a better place for this complaint, dontcha think?
posted by fraying at 3:53 PM on June 26, 2001


There are hundreds of possible OS/browser combinations out there, and it's extremely difficult to test for them all.

This sort of thing wouldn't happen if people stopped using graphics!
posted by aaron at 4:01 PM on June 26, 2001



*looks up at header*

Hmm, it says MetaFilter but somehow I think I wound up at /.

If only someone would say "I think this belongs in MetaTalk," then I could be certain.
posted by Mick at 4:06 PM on June 26, 2001


"ah, but you forget about opera for mac...."

Ummm...... Slight correction here. Actually with only 0.0000003% of the browser market it's considered acceptable to ignore opera for mac.
posted by y6y6y6 at 4:06 PM on June 26, 2001


It's always been my opinion that if you need precise positioning of graphics, pixels are probably the way to go, but text ... never. The text on my site is percentages, so the reader can make it the size they want to read at.
posted by dhartung at 4:19 PM on June 26, 2001


stick, bottom... ah, nevermind.
posted by atfrost at 5:08 PM on June 26, 2001


I'm using IE6's medium font setting under Win2k (the same setup that started this whole thing) and it looks fine to me so the problem isn't simply a case of beta software screwing up ems.

Changing my font settings to smallest, however, turns the text into unreadable squiggly grey lines. That isn't going to happen, though, unless the user consciously changes it.
posted by Monk at 5:19 PM on June 26, 2001



Why should web site designers be allowed to create unreadable text in the first place? Why do browsers let them get away with this?

Why can you drive your car into a tree? How can car makers let you do that?

The key is: GOOD web site designers don't do that. Ones who aren't careful, or don't pay attention to a bug, or don't follow what other people in their industry are pointing out as broken or 'improper'.... They create unreadable text.

Personally, I use pixels and I don't usually even have a problem in Macintoshes.
posted by SpecialK at 7:03 PM on June 26, 2001


Sapient.com looks very nice. Got the grid, range of values, nice colors, good on-screen typography, client can control the type size, scales well enough with the window, seemed low-bandwidth, appears to be well articulated info. My perspective: IE 5.00.2614.3500 @1152x864-85Hz. I keep the IE "AA" font size button on my toolbar--very convenient. Dayvin: perhaps you can visit microsoft.com and get one of the current browsers that isn't in prerelease?
posted by greyscale at 7:58 PM on June 26, 2001


maybe this is why?
posted by mb01 at 8:52 PM on June 26, 2001


o2b, just go and read ALA once in a while ok? Pixels are not as cross-platform as you think.

Yeah, usually ALA is pretty good about these sorts of things, but I just went to the site and, surprisingly, got their upgrade warning:
This site will look MUCH better in a browser that supports web standards, but its content is accessible to any browser or Internet device.
So I went to the link above, where they list a number of browsers which are standards compliant:

IE5.5 for Windows
IE5 Macintosh Edition
Netscape 6
Opera 5
Konqueror
IBM Web Browser

My browser? Opera 5.11. I swear to god the site looked just FINE the other day when I visited in Opera. Have Gates and Ballmer gotten to Zeldman?!
posted by fooljay at 9:39 PM on June 26, 2001


i'm using 5.11 for windows, and it looks fine to me...
posted by lotsofno at 10:19 PM on June 26, 2001


turns the text into unreadable squiggly grey lines.

Greeking!
posted by aaron at 10:30 PM on June 26, 2001



Artlung,

You must have magnetic elements in your body- pulling you to CSS wherever it is on the net.

Go, artlung, go!
posted by charlesw at 11:56 PM on June 26, 2001


Actually, Spanktacular, if you go to ALA, check out Zeldman's article on font sizing in browsers - pixels is by far the most reliable way to scale fonts at the moment. Opera5/mac has got it wrong right now - it behaves pretty much like NS4/win and sets the font size 1 px too small - but if you never go below 10px font sizes, the text won't ever become unreadable ...

Ems/percentage scaling is way too unreliable - just because the web is a "fluid medium" doesn't mean that a designer shouldn't be able to create a static layout, where precisely-sized fonts are important. Not all designs can work like mefi or dreamless or useit.com for that matter - sometimes the design *is* the content, and needs to be treated as such.
posted by mschmidt at 12:08 AM on June 27, 2001


Jay, what browser do you have you Opera set to report itself as? It doesn't necessarily report Opera to the server.
posted by rodii at 12:26 AM on June 27, 2001


I didn't change it.

Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.0; Windows 2000) Opera 5.11 [en]
posted by fooljay at 3:50 AM on June 27, 2001


By which I mean to say that I've visited ALA quite a few times with this browser and it was never a problem before. Suddenly now I'm no longer in compliance.
posted by fooljay at 3:51 AM on June 27, 2001


*cough*
posted by Zeldman at 6:08 AM on June 27, 2001


I'm running Win2k and IE5.5. But I'm running my default font size at "Smaller" (View -> Text Size -> Smaller). Not smallest. This is a pretty standard thing for a user to choose what size text they want to view sites at. This is the first site I've come across where I had to adjust my settings in order to read the text.

This is just poor design. The designer obviously never looked at the site adjusting the font sizes. Or if they did, I guess they decided "looking cool" was more important than actually being able to read the text. As others have pointed out, using em is unreliable and should be avoided at this time.

Ya see, it's not the browser/platform combination alone, in a vacuum, that you have to design for. It's the combination combined with standard user behavior, such as changing the defaults to their own preferences. While I'm not asking or expecting every designer to check every possible combination, going one larger and one smaller on IE's Text Size choices (and the same in Mozilla and Netscape) doesn't take more than a few more minutes to check.
posted by yarf at 6:49 AM on June 27, 2001


I went back to Sapient's site this morning to check out the site. Same browser and OS combination as yesterday (IE6/Win2K), the leading problem is gone. Now, trying to access most of the internal pages gives me 404 or 500 errors. Houston, we have a problem.
posted by dayvin at 7:18 AM on June 27, 2001


Jefrrey, your "*cough*" communicated volumes.

Not to me, though. Can you elaborate?
posted by rodii at 8:20 AM on June 27, 2001


aside, semi-related to this thread: i loved the thinly veiled anti-sapient tone that developed during the course of startup.com, from what started with "we've got sapient, so we're set!".
posted by mmanning at 9:03 AM on June 27, 2001


Wow, it is very interesting to hear some of these comments that are coming from non-designers (apparently) expressing their attitudes about designers. I think they don't realize how difficult it is to deal with typography on the internet.

For one thing, a lot of people are advocating using ems or percentages because that gives the user more control over the site. This makes sense, but unfortunately DOESN'T WORK. For one thing, a user does not want to have any control over a site. A quote from yark's post:

As a user I am not going to change my default font size just to use your site.

Proving that they don't want to have to select "make fonts larger" or "make fonts smaller" for a site - so the value of ems and percentages is questionable right there.

The other huge problem is, I believe, what is causing the problem with Sapient's site for some people. That is that some users/browsers/platforms have their defaults set at a relatively small size to begin with. So, when the designer goes in and tries to specify .8 ems (Sapient's is set at .7 em) for a type size, it makes the text even smaller than the small default - resulting in illegible text.

So, a designer using ems or percentages must sacrifice any type size smaller than the default - which is a high price to pay for content layout. Some sites, like Metafilter, have a type of content that lends itself to using this approach, but most corporate sites don't.

Using ems or percentages takes type size control away from the designer and puts it in the hands of the browser. Therefore, if you think a designer should use ems not pixels, and you run into a site that does use ems but is illegible to your browser - you can't blame the designer. You need to push that "make text larger" button and exercise the control that the designer gave you.

It is practically impossible to test a site using all platform/browser/browser version/possible user settings combinations. I have even found that two seemingly identical setups on two different PCs running windows often give different results for some unknown reason.

Me, I use pixel sizes - I just haven't been able to find a better solution.
posted by daser at 10:44 AM on June 27, 2001


Christ, you people miss the fucking point a lot.

The web is not print. Stop trying to design for print when you're designing for a screen.

I'd point you to a fantastic article at ALA, titled The Dao or Web Design but their DNS is screwed up right now. Sorry to hear about that, Jeffrey. I really hope you don't pull the plug on ALA, I read it every week.

Anyway, the point is that you cannot control typography the same way for the pixel press that you can for the printed page. No. You can't. Just deal with it and get over it. This is NOT desktop publishing. No. It's not. You do not have absolute control over the page. You do not have absolute control over the browser window. Your users will resize it, maximize it, full screen it, but they will not all do it like you do. You do NOT have total, complete, authoritative, absolute control. No. You don't. You only have, at best, suggestive control. Get used to it and learn to work with it unless you want discussions like these about your site.

This is a pretty technically savvy crowd here, and just look at all the differing browsing environments...just deal with it by treating your design as fluid and dynamic, changable and still conveying a central theme. Then and only then will you truly be web designing instead of bitching about not being able to typeset for the web. Unless, of course, you can actually burn calories with your exercises in futility.
posted by Spanktacular at 2:24 PM on June 27, 2001


Or maybe "we people" have been wrestling with these problems in real life for the last five years and are aware of what approaches are practical. And we've all read ALA, in particular the "Fear of Style Sheets" articles where Jeffrey urges us to use guess what unit? And we've all been flamed by dipshits with lots of theoretical knowledge. "The web is not print" is something we all learned in Web First Grade, just like you. Then the question is "what works?" and, whaddaya know, Spanky? cheeseball slogans are no help.

You do NOT have total, complete, authoritative, absolute control.

To quote the esteemed Mo Nickels, "No duh, ducktape."
posted by rodii at 2:36 PM on June 27, 2001


Christ, you people miss the fucking point a lot.

With all due respect, isn't that a bit rude? Really, we're not children here. I'm sure there are a lot of web-telligent people here with years of experience in not only designing, but more importantly in viewing the web make its transition from a strict text medium to a dynamic graphics and content melting pot. In fact, I often find myself feeling like a bit of a rookie here because, to be honest, I had only heard of ems before today.

You do NOT have total, complete, authoritative, absolute control.

Which is exactly why we want to take as much control as possible. Is there anything wrong with that? Obviously there are two parts to a website: the designer and the viewer. Who's more important? Well, without one, the other is pointless. Forget the fact that the web has websites from everyone and their mother, but concentrate on the fact that a website reflects the designer/company/whatever in the best possible manner. The size a designer makes his/her text is very important and shows a lot to reflect their style. I've seen sites that have 16px Times New Roman compared to sites that have 10px Verdana. There's definitely a different of feel there that affects how the designer reflects upon the viewer.

Alas, this is definitely a topic that can be spoken on for forever, but I think the final word is what SpecialK mentioned: "GOOD web site designers don't do that." Do what? Be dumb and ignorant to the viewer. A good designer will take into effect his viewer and then make an effort to control his content as much as possible. Yah.
posted by dequinix at 5:01 PM on June 27, 2001


I tried to tell you. You were all just jerking yourselves off. And I tried to tell you.
posted by holloway at 4:29 PM on October 10, 2001


Hi holloway. What are you talking about?
posted by rodii at 7:08 AM on October 11, 2001


« Older The Other Monument to the Father of Our Country   |   US drops WTO lawsuit Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments