Molly speaks up… #16

…designer bugs…

a veritable minefield…

Maybe I should have limited myself to scratching down a comment or two about 'web design related bugs'. However, the entire world wide web is affected by human bugs, so I'll take my chances and put all four paws into this veritable minefield. Cats have 9 lives, they say...

One doesn't have to look far to find human bugs. There's a rather typhical human bug I scratched down something about earlier, in a comment called house on fire. It's still quite relevant and affects plenty of web designs around.

I have listed some human bugs that may potentially result in faulty web-designs – designer bugs. There are plenty more human bugs around, but I'll save some for another page – if I survive this one.

1: arrogance…

“Visitors can't be allowed to destroy my design. This is my design, and I alone decide how it should look.”
― anonymous designer

Fine, but this is the world wide web, and visitors do as they wish. Whether they are just using the "wrong" browser – setting font-size to suit themselves – or actually don't like the design, there is only one way to prevent them from "destroying" it: keep it off the web.

A better solution may be to prepare the design a bit better for the variables that visitors may impose on any design, and make sure the design doesn't get in the way if visitors need to use their software-options in order to get to the content.

2: action-hunger…

“Dull pages get no attention. Got to be some action and movement in there.”
― anonymous designer

Maybe so, but remember that no action and movement can replace real content — only take people's attention away from it if there is any. Making visitors lose focus on content may not be such a good idea.

On the other hand: if the page is all about action and movement, then a bit more of it may not hurt all that much. Too much animation, flash and jumping javascript-magic may be too much even on such a page though.

One should also remember that the attention-factor may end up being completely lost on many web surfers, who simply 'block out' most (if not all) action on web pages after having been over-exposed to it over many years. Software that 'blocks out' disturbing material on the web has become quite popular, and most new browsers have at least some of these blocking-options built in.

3: everybody got broadband…

“Everybody got broadband these days, so there's no need to limit pagesize and sise and number of images.”
― anonymous designer

Slightly above 50% of web-surfers around the world have broadband-connection these days (autumn 2005). That's not quite "everybody" just yet, so maybe one should re‑phrase and re‑think that one. Slow connections with 56Kb modems (and even some slower) are still what millions of us have to our disposal.

Any site's target-audience may end up with a different percentage of broadband-connections, so maybe some sites are sufficiently covered right now. The rest of us should maybe still take connection-speed into account for a few more years.

4: buggy browsers…

“Complaining visitors are using buggy browsers. That's not my responsibility.”
― anonymous designer

I agree – to a degree. Just make sure that it really is the browser that's buggy and not the design that's faulty. The result may well be the same, but the responsibility may fall on the designer's side of the fence. Testing and debugging the design across browser-land before launch is always a wise move.

It shouldn't be necessary to test a well-working standard-based design across browser-land, but reality says that it is. Not even W3C-standards can guarantee anything, since so many details are undefined in those standards. Plenty of room for interpretation, so a browser may be well within what's called 'standard-compliance' and still do it different than other browsers.

Some browsers are supposed to do it different, either by default or through options, because their users have special needs. Most of these browsers/options are there for accessibility-reasons. Accessibility is the designer's responsibility to a large degree, but the border-lines are not very clear in this area, and the ability to test may be limited.
No matter what; accessibility isn't a browser-bug.

One may see the whole question differently if someone is complaining while using an old and outdated browser, by choice or because they don't see the need for an upgrade. It is not always possible to design for new browsers and make it look perfect in older ones. In the name of progress; maybe one shouldn't even try...

5: typographical perfection…


“Written content has to be presented according to typographical rules.”
― anonymous designer

I agree, but what rules? Is it also supposed to work?

Typhographical rules differs around the world, so there is some confusion about what rules to apply where. The medium apply its own restrictions, and the result at the user-end may not be anything like the input.

The web, with its variable availability of fonts, and restrictions on what works in different browsers and operating-systems, is often not able to deliver what we want no matter what rules we apply. Whish it would, but I think it's too early to ask for typographical perfection on the web just yet.

The most used medium – the screen, is also a bit different from paper in that it isn't a predictable constant. The web isn't print, although it may be used as a channel for printing. Content on a web page may also be used as source for audio-output, and a lot of other transformations may be applied, so there's a lot to consider before perfect and detailed typhographical rules can become a reality on the web.

Now, if every typographical variation that isn't perfectly in line with ones own preferences, is deemed “ugly, useless, inaccessible and just-plain-stupid”, then one may as well settle in a convent somewhere without access to the written word in any form.

Humans should be flexible enough to accept a reasonable amount of variations caused by media, location and authors personal freedom to express himself. What “reasonable” mean in this context should remain debatable though...

6: importance…

“This must be the right way to do it. Why? Because ’so and so‛ wrote it!”
― anonymous designer

Maybe so, but I—Molly 'the cat'—can make up my own mind about that, thank you! Now, what does it say?

This 'importance-bug' may affect designs in an unpredictable way, in that solutions may be applied to a designer's work because of 'who' wrote about it, regardless of the actuall value of the stuff. The results may range from 'perfect' to 'completely useless', and that's too large a range for comfort in my opinion.

Names and signatures should (ideally speaking at least) carry no importance in web design, but we all know that they do. Probably wouldn't be much stuff on the web if names and brands were left out, so that's not a practical "fix" for this human bug. Even I—Molly 'the cat'—like to see my name mentioned here and there...

Yes, names are important to some, or should I say; some names are important to some. However, this is often based on groups and/or cultures, and 'a name' may carry no meaning, or maybe even a negative meaning, outside a particular group/culture. Just keep that in mind and serve the content, please.

7: valid – or not…

“Anything less than 100% valid markup and CSS is a complete failure”
― anonymous fanatical designer

“Validity? – my ass! It just has to work in my choice of browsers”
― anonymous couldn't-care-less designer

Sorry, but I think they both got it wrong. Neither perfection nor neglection is the answer if we are to design for the real world wide web as of today.

If I have to choose then I rather go with the first one. However, as the web isn't working as the ideal space we may want it to be, I don't think “100% validity” is possible if the markup and CSS should be somewhat efficient and up-to-date and still work reliable across browser-land. May depend on design-decisions though.

On the other hand: to base the issue of “validity and functional design” on choice of browsers is completely beside the point. In short: it's a shortsighted view that only dysfunctional "designers" can get away with – for a short while.

As many visitors as possible should find an accessible and functional site—almost regardless of browser/software used. Today that's only possible—to a degree at least—if a site is organized, coded and designed on a base of standardised, valid, markup and CSS.

Most designs will then also have to deal with some less standard-compliant browsers/software at the receiving end, and that may lead to the need for a few non-valid additions at times. Being fanatical or dysfunctional doesn't help here, so cool down and go kill those bugs.


Don't think many have found any real surprises in the above, and some may perhaps be a bit annoyed when what they see as 'perfectly normal human behavior' is being presented as 'human bugs'. Well, I guess that's my conclusion also, as it is perfectly normal for humans to behave in a buggy way – miao.

I still don't think these 'human bugs' can be cured, but may I hope for some slight improvements as time goes by? Life is short…

Now, I hope I'm still able to "fix" some serious human bugs around where I live, so I can get some delicious and warm cow-milk served when I think it's meal-time. That's what really matters in a cat's life, you know!

sincerely  molly 'the cat'

Hageland 18.sep.2005
last rev: 18.nov.2008

Molly speaks up…

Molly: …is this of any use?
Opera: …don't know.
Molly: …bugger!


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  • this is PTL web-design
  • CSS sledgehammer
  • Lynx enhanced page
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  • validity of xhtml and CSS
  • html tidy
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the usual
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the unusual
  • Molly speaks up
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the additional
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bug list:

oh, yes!
I can count all human bugs on one paw…

1, 2, 3 — .
…did I miss any?Molly

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