Saturday, March 30, 2002

So You Want People to Read Your Blog?

The key is readability. Far too many blogs (and other things, I might add) are totally unreadable. Not because of content, but because of the presentation. The default font for most Blogger templates is a teeny-tiny sans-serif font that I, for one, simply can't read without a magnifying glass.

How To Fix It

Note that this applies only to Blogger templates. I have no idea how any other log-type things like LiveJournal work because I don't use them. If you have a way of fixing the fonts on some of these, drop me an e-mail and I'll put a link to your instructions here.

Most Blogger templates use something called Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). This controls the appearance of text from descriptions in the header of the Web page. If you click on the "template" button, you'll get a screen full of HTML stuff. Look for a section between <style> and </style> tags. This controls the entire Webpage at once. Change this, and you don't have to change anythig else. There will be several sections, starting with a dot and a name and followed by some stuff in curly brackets, like so:

  .blogtext { ... font: 12px arial, verdana, helvetica, sans-serif; ...}
  .blogtext { ... font-family: arial, verdana, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 10px; ...}
You need to change the one that controls the size of your blog text. This is really the only one that needs changing; all dates, links, and stuff works just fine in small type. Unfortunately, there is no standard for names; you just have to play with it until you find the right one. Some don't even start with a dot. Until you figure out how the CSS stuff works, it's just a matter of trying things until you find what works for you. When I'm working with it, I cut the old data to a scratch text file so I can just paste it back in if I get it wrong. Worst comes to worst, there's a button that throws away all your changes and goes back to the original. You don't want to do this unless you ablolutely have to; it wipes out all changes to your template. Note also that if you switch templates, you'll have to go back and do it all over again.

In the "blogtext" section (remember, it may not be called that on your template!), I just erase the part that says "font-family: (whatever); font-size: (whatever);" or "font: (whatever);"Note that the font, font-family and font-weight data ends with a semicolon. Delete everything up to and including the semicolon. This will make the text appear in whatever font and size the viewer has set as "default" in his or her browser. I'm sure we all have our defaults set to something we like to read. Mine is eleven-point Georgia; yours is probably different.

If you insist on specifying font sizes, you can specify them in "points" instead of "pixels". This means that the type size will be independant of such things as screen resolution. In the "font-size" description, make sure it's something like "font-size: 10pt". This gives ten point type, which is quite readable on most systems.

Wen you're done, click "Save Changes" to return to the main editing screen, and click "publish" to make the changes effective. Then reload your page to see if the change did what you expected it to do. If not, just repeat the procedure until you get what you want. Be sure to publish and reload. Forget this, and you will go crazy trying to figure out why your changes didn't seem to have any effect.

Why Do They Do It That Way?

Graphic designers can't read. See Sneakers for a discussion of this little problem.

Im not worried about offending graphic designers here; the good ones are more familiar than I am with the problem and the bad ones can't read.

What About Other Peoples' Pages?

OK, you've fixed your blog. What about other peoples'? They're still unreadable. My solution is to switch browsers. The Opera Web browser has a little button that makes all the fancy fonts, colors, and backgrounds go away. One click and you can read practically anything. You can download Opera for free, but it has obnoxious flashing ads. If you pay for it, the ads all go away. For me, it's definately worth it. Main disadvantage is that far too many Web pages (including Blogger!) use nonstandard HTML. Speaking as someone who designs such things for a living, this is just pure, unprofessional laziness.

Friday, March 29, 2002


The following is a paid announcement, and may not represent the views of this station.

Hi. I'm Buffy Summers, and I want to talk to you about a very serious problem. All over the world, demons are dying out. Whether this is from the loss of their natural habitats of swamps, impenetrable forests, or British boarding schools, through the greed of egg or antennae collectors, or through their inability to adapt to human cities, this cannot be allowed to continue. Some irreplaceable species have already been lost forever. No government or United Nations program addresses this problem. The Save the Demons Foundation does.

Why am I asking you this? As a Slayer, you might think that I don't like demons. Nothing could be further from the truth. Actually, some of my best friends are demons. I only want to keep them from killing my other friends. I care even less than you do about the extras that die every week to support our local demon population.

After all, without these beautiful and increasingly rare demons, I'm just another college dropout with a crummy, dead end job and an obnoxious little sister. You don't want to know about my love life.

So please give generously:

  • For only a dollar a week, you can provide counselling for a new vampire. The shock of joining the Immortal Undead is considerable; you can help one to adjust to his or her new, uh, life.
  • For only two dollars a week, you can help a rare slime demon egg hatch. Throughout Europe and America, the dungheaps that they need to hatch are falling victim to short-sighted environmental regulations.
  • And for five dollars a week, you can provide shelter and fake ID for a whole family of Madagascar Sludge Monsters. All they really need is your love, a warm little hole down by the sewage treatment plant, and a nearby jogging trail.

For your pledge, you will receive progress reports on your demon, with photographs, letters, and police reports. There are few things as exciting as receiving the report of your demon's hatching, first moult, or first human kill. The feeling when you see a photo of your very own adult Samoan Rim Slider emerging, shiny and new, from its pupa in a shriveled corpse, simply cannot be described.

If you don't want to sponsor a demon right now, the Save the Demons Foundation can use your contributions in other ways. For example, your donation can provide chastity counseling at a local church, as many of the more delicate demons, like the Moldavian Rainbow Crawler shown here, must subsist on virgins, which are becoming as rare as the demons that require them.

So call in your pledge to the number at the bottom of your screen; operators are standing by. And remember, all contributions to the Save the Demons Foundation are fully tax deductible.

Call now, and you can go to bed tonight with the warm feeling that you're doing something that really matters to this world, and several others.

The preceeding was a paid announcement, and may not represent the views of this station.

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