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That wacky theme

If you select the "fobtest" theme from the box on the left of this site as I write (although it may not be by the time you read this), your eyes will be assaulted. Red-on-pink, with a red spray-painted logo. It looks like a joke, and it is. But more than that, it isn't supposed to be here…

One of the classic problems with running a test instance, as I do for this site on my home box, is that it's easy to get confused and do things on the real instance that were intended for the test instance, and vice versa. The fobtest theme is primarily intended to ensure that I know when I'm working on FOB, and when I'm working on the FOB test instance. Even if I switch themes, the ugly red logo and favicon persists in the other themes, and out of context it's still pretty hard to miss.

I could tell you various horror stories about what has happened to me and to others when the test and live instances get mixed. Suffice it to say that I highly recommend figuring out a variant of this technique for your test instances too. It might save you some real grief—if you can avoid going blind first. Fob

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Comments

I can't switch to any of the other themes. Each time I try, I get a "Validation Error" in a red box at the top of the list of blog entries. Also, the default font size for the default theme is pretty huge. I lowered it down with one press of my browser's "-" feature and now it's big but much more useable. Just so you know.

It looks like the theme switcher doesn't really work very well with tabs, or on places other than the front page. If you close your browser, then reopen FOB and use the switcher right away, it seems to work fine. Horrible, but I don't plan to leave it up much longer so I'll file a bug report and hope someone else fixes it. I'm not sure what a good compromise is for the font size. I definitely made it much bigger, but it doesn't look too outrageous on my screen. Perhaps I'm getting different rendering than you are, though. Any chance you could try hitting the site with Firefox and telling me if it looks roughly the same?

It looks exactly the same. I think it would be much better if you moved the size down 1 or 2 increments and then let people increase it manually, if they desire. I have a vague sense that I'm back in first grade, writing on that lined paper which is only appropriate for Husky© pencils.

OK, I changed the font size and line spacing. The biggest problem is that all the font sizes had been specified in pixels, which means that on my medium-sized 1600x1050 screen they looked pretty good. Fob They're now specified in points, which means that they are much more scale-invariant (at least with Iceweasel). I also changed the line height to be a lot smaller. I may have overdone it, but so far I'm happy. I also specified reasonable alternate fonts, so I'm getting a much more readable font now. Let me know if the new stuff is better. BTW, stylin' © symbol—UTF-8 rules! Fob

why my font size is being specified at all. Why can't I view the page at the default font size for my web browswer? Why must you force me to view it at a larger size? It's harder for you and worse for me. The standard CSS unit is the "em" which is equivalent to "whatever size the client prefers". Then you specify 0.5em or 1.5em or whatever and get just what the user wants and just what you want. I don't know anything about the Drupal installation but it seems impossible that it's not using CSS as the basis of its themes? Again I ask, why do we need to hard-code a font size? Why can't I use the size I want and which every other page I visit allows me to specify? The line spacing is good, the font is smaller, but it's still quite large compared to every other web page I visit. I just made a screen shot which I'll upload and then link because my email is down.

I'm not so sure that it's so uncommon to provide font sizes on web pages—I see it all the time. I wasn't getting good results with ems (what a horribly mis-named unit in this context!) , but I can try again tomorrow sometime. The font sizes I've specified are in the CSS for the themes; you can override them in your browser. The screen shot was quite informative, thanks! I haven't played much with screen resolutions as small as 1024x768. I'm not sure why your email is down; give me a call sometime. It looks to me like it's all up and running at the moment, but maybe something is broken that I haven't spotted.

Statistics from September 1, 2007 show that 1024x768 is the most common resolution, and has been for at least 3 years. There is an upward trend toward 1440x900, but we're not even close to that as a standard. The most common resolution for your visitors might be higher - not sure - but if you make an awkward experience for 1024x768, you're making an awkward experience for the worldwide web in 2007. Web design is in the toilet. Pages look worse now than they did 3 years ago. The biggest commercial content providers have a general disdain for their customers, which is the same as a rejection of good design principles. Since these sites get the most hits, designers copy what they're doing (unprincipled and unpleasant as it is) and now most of the web looks trashy. The "norm" is a stupidly cluttered magazine page which must be viewed through license plate frame. The good news is that FOB is generally extremely clean and nice-looking. It doesn't have advertisements, it doesn't have too many links, and the horizontal scrollbar it produces on my screen is not needed at all. It's true that some web pages hard-code font sizes, and of course there are very specific situations where that's the best solution to a problem. But if there's no problem, there's no need for a solution. My general rule is this: Only specify a font size if it needs to be bigger or smaller than the standard size the user has set in the browser. If it does need to be bigger or smaller, use relative increases and decreases. In CSS this means the "em" unit. My WeBL rankings pages require several different font sizes to address particular needs. One need is fitting links gracefully around a background image. Another need is fitting text into a very large table which must be both compact and readable. In every case, I used the "em" designation to accomplish my goals. You can view the page at 800x600 or 1440x900, it will look right if you have your default browser font size set to something reasonable. Again, this is mostly a lost art - the new web design criteria (singular) is "do what's easy and the user can damn well adjust". Of course FOB is not doing that at all, and that's commendable. I have some fairly specific requirements for which text-content pages I visit. If it looks horrible or too small (more common than too big) or I have to scroll horizontally, I'm not going back. I gave up ScienceDaily.com after they changed from their super-simple, super-good text format to the hopeless, cluttered junk they have now. That was a hard choice to make, but after wading through load times which went 5x higher and then not being able to find anything in the soup, it was easier. My email is currently working great, thanks!