Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A new theme for Kim and company

I've been using the same basic theme on my web sites (with slight tweaks) since 1993.

I chose this theme, because it was UNIX and op-center convention to have a dark screen with light text, and red alert text.

Now, there are two basic conventions in the computing word, the console convention, and the GUI convention. Consoles were originally designed with light text (green, white, or amber) on a black screen, because it was higher contrast with the display devices of the early 70s; and because it preserved contrast vision in a darkened environment (like an operations center).

When newer, more capable, color displays were developed, consoles simply updated their existing convention to incorporate color, with red, green, blue, and yellow alert and highlight text.

The GUI convention on the other hand is based on WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). That means that GUI designers based their text rendering conventions on the printing world, where black or dark printing on light backgrounds has always been the norm... because it's a hell of a lot easier to bleach paper than it is to make a white ink.

Console people tend to really hate light backgrounds with dark text in their interfaces. Put an EMACS user into a Dark on Light environment and he'll throw a fit... then he'll shut the lights off, gra some mountain dew, hack into the system and change it to the way he likes it.

GUI people on the other hand tend to find Light on Dark to be hard to read, and jarring.

It would be fine if it were jsut a basic matter of preference, but there's also a question of biology. If you have an astigmatism or you're farsighted, reading white text on a dark background can be very difficult and uncomfortable. Basically, it makes your eyes refocus constantly between the light background of the room, and the dark of the screen, and you damn near go crosseyed.

The only way to avoid this problem is to work in a dark room... or to not try and read light on dark screens.

You might be aware that there are more farsighted and astigmatic people in the world than there are people with perfect vision. This is especially true of folks over the age of 45.

Anyway, a lot of folks who would otherwise be regular readers have said in the past that the reason they are not, is because they find my page hard to read. This has come up again today, with Kim saying to me for the I don't know how manyth time that he had to stop reading my page after a few paragraphs.

Well, up to this point I've been too lazy to change my template (it really is kind of a pain to be honest). I really quite dislike back on white, and I couldn't find a compromise that I did like, and that didnt require me to spend hours and hours messing with font and background colors and templates etc...

Today I figured I'd try an experiment.

I've changed my theme to a light background with dark text for my main content sections. I'd like everyone who has an opinion to leave a comment, yea, nay, or other (with suggestions), and Friday I'll see what my readers think.

Oh, and there's one other common reason people cite as why they don't read my site regularly: They think I swear too much.

They're right, I do; but that's who I am, and I'm not changing that one.

UPDATE: Okay, based on the first set of feedback, I've upped the brightness on the main frame a bit, changed the border from black to dark gray, and messed with the text a bit. It's less jarring now, but it's also lower contrast.

It looks fine on my nice crisp high contrast laptop; but I'm worried about how it looks on others displays.

UPDATE2: There just isn't enough contrast here for older monitors or low end LCDs... I've got to try something else. I'mna darken the gray up a little bit and see what I can do with the text.