TIWWCHNT IV: More Eye Cancer

TIWWCHNT IV: More Eye Cancer


Even more things designers use to make a web site look awful...


Upon reading Magnus' rants about the abundance of idiocy among web designers, I noticed he'd left out a lot of things I see on the 'net that cause me eye cancer. So he invited me to write my own article about them, and here you go.

Animated GIFs

While there is the occasional animated GIF that is actually useful, most of them are just bloody annoying. Those that try to be "funny" get old really fast (and let's face it, most of them really aren't that funny in the first place). And don't get me started on those that simply add sparkles to text or pictures. Honestly, most animated GIFs are not cool. They hog server space and bandwidth for no reason at all except that you're trying to be funny or think it will make your website look nicer (you aren't, and it won't). They can be a trigger for migraines. If they are of the "sparkly text" variety, they actually make your text harder to read. And if you, dear reader, actually write and publish programmes that turn stuff into sparkly animated GIFs: Go die in a fire.

A lot of forums seem to think it's cool to have a crapton of animated icons, too. To me, it's bloody annoying. I don't want to read text littered with animated smileys because the author of the post simply added a couple of :) or :-) emoticons - not that I'd encourage the overuse of emoticons, but I'm fine with a limited amount of them, depending on the content of the post. I don't need static images for emoticons either, but these aren't disturbing me quite as much as animated ones.

So if you're going to add an animated GIF to your web site, just don't.

If your web site has background music, go turn it off now.

I mean it. Right now. If I open your site and it's playing music I close the tab right away. The same goes for embedded videos that start playing right away when I open the site. I don't mind embedded videos that much, but I do want to choose if and when to play them, thank you. I cannot possibly be the only person who already listens to music while browsing the web, right? Besides, some people are vision impaired and rely on a screen reader to browse the web. They do not appreciate having music blare through their headphones while they have your site read to them.

How to post in web forums without giving your readers eye cancer

Okay, this section is less about web designers and more about forum users - but many of them are living proof that you can perfectly well cause eye cancer without being a web designer at all. So this is a selection of annoying things people do when they post on forums. Thankfully, these offenses aren't quite as prevalent on IT-related forums, but if you're like me and have many interests beyond IT, you might run into a couple of them.

Extra large font sizes

Magnus already mentioned people who change their font size throughout paragraphs for no reason, but he didn't mention those who, for whatever reason, write their forum posts in extra large fonts (like 36pt). Most of the time these people also set their font colour to something glaring like saturated red or blue, and in all cases I've ever seen, the actual content of their posts was completely insignificant (note: Writing your post in a bigger font size does not make it more important). If you are one of these people, please stop doing this. It's making the text harder to read, especially if you do change the font colour. Actually, whenever I see such a post, I immediately scroll down and skip it entirely. If you actually find extremely large font sizes easier to read, use your browser's zoom function.

Changing font colour for no good reason

In addition to that, most forum softwares support a variety of styles. If your forum software does, that means it's highly unlikely every user is using the same style you do. So if you just stick to the default text colour, it'll be easily readable in all available styles - but if you go and change your font colour just because you can, you might end up with a bunch of annoyed users who can't read your post because they're using a different style. Just stick to the default colour, and your readers will like you much better.

What NOT to put in your signature

A lot of forum users also seem to abuse signatures quite a bit. Thankfully, many forums have rules on the size of images in signatures so we don't have to look at a 800x600 picture of your car or your puppy every time you post, but I still don't want to look at "tickers" that tell me how much weight you have yet to lose, how far along your pregnancy is or - can someone hand me a puke bag? - for how long you've been together with your sweetheart. I don't need to read jokes (honestly, most of them get old after you've read them a couple hundred times), your idea of a witty one-liner (it isn't) or inside jokes (way to embrace new or infrequent forum users) either. If the forum has a crapton of icons, animated or not, that's bad enough - I don't need to see them in your signature, too. And it goes without saying that animated GIFs in signatures are an abomination, and anyone who uses them should probably go find the "edit signature" button and remove them, now.

So what should you put in your forum signature? Most of the time, nothing is perfectly sufficient - if you want to promote your blog or web site, many forums allow you to put that information in your profile. Depending on the nature of the forum, you might put other links into your signature, though, but please stick to the important ones and don't clutter it. Quotations are fine by me as long as they're short, correct (please double-check) and you've given credit to the author. Still, if you don't know what to put in it, the best choice in my opinion is to simply leave it empty.

Written by Nadja Deininger ().