I just finished reading an article about emerging layout standards in CSS which recently appeared in ‘A List Apart.‘
The article, written by the fellow who proposed CSS way back in 1994, details the development of new proposals within the CSS spec, which – if implemented — will allow for multi-column formatting (like a print periodical) and the flexible placement of images within layouts. After I finished reading the piece – which was well populated with code snippets – I couldn’t help but notice that the article dovetailed with one of the many issues that send me to my podium.
One major difference between how articles appear on the web versus print is the lack of columned layouts. These allow content to flow from one column into the next (like a newspaper…) Columned layouts have been standard in print media for centuries and have become second nature to the eyes of Western readers. Duplicating them on the web would, at a minimum, lend a cultural familiarity to reading on the web and make the transition from print to web somewhat seamless. More than just this benefit, though, there are practical reasons for columned layouts, most of which have to do with the varied devices and resolutions readers with which modern readers access the web. Imagine reading a blog post on a large-screen, high resolution device. A single column of text would span across the page – thousands of pixels wide – creating an unrelieved field of words. Such copy would read with ease with the addition of columns (and some well-placed block quotes and images…) Inversely, the same article, when read on a phone would have to be a single column article, as the device itself is too small to allow for multiple columns of content to be easily read.
How can that be a bad thing?