Behold, the blinking marquee

I recently picked up “Handcrafted CSS” at the local bookstore and flipping through it has revived my old love of design.

At the heart of this process is the separation of content, style and behavior in DHTML that evokes notions of beauty in the code that drives the pretty layouts on the screen. The books introduce and codifies some of the aesthetic precepts and takes the reader through the reasoning and creative process of an artist which is quite intriguing.

I remember a particularly interactive web site I was involved in many years ago at a time when the browser wars were at its bloodiest and when the world was being slowly drowned in text that blinked and marquees that scrolled and when the mood struck, marquees that blinked. It was a dark time, when many of the world’s creative types cried themselves to sleep at the fate of browser compatibility and the pain of being caught in the cross-fire between Netscape, IE and Opera.

To drive the point further home, behold, the horror.

I drifted away from the world of design for a while after that, with a number of deep-seated unresolved issues that linger to this day – most having to do with the marquee tag. In case you hadn’t picked up on that already.

Generally, a good design is seen as one that can withstand the innate standards-hating marquee-loving nature of browsers, so that it looks pleasing no matter where it is rendered and at different resolutions, with *hit turned off (like Javascript and even CSS). Throw into this mix, the need for accessibility features and we introduce a whole new dimension of complexity when thinking about design. Thankfully, this forces the designer to think along the lines of separation of concerns or things get out of hand very quickly.

This is where it pays to think of DHTML interface design in terms of markup, presentation and behavior in the same way we look at models, views and controllers. This may not be new to most of you, but I feel as if I’ve been time warped from a time when presentation anti-patterns ruled and the <blink> tag was at the forefront of browser innovation.

Another interesting book that’s keeping me up at night is “Smart Things – Ubiquitous Computing User Experience Design“. Ubicomp ftw. More on this later.

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