Web design for engineers

I hate e-book flippy magazines. I am repeatedly amazed at the collective delusion that seems to strike otherwise sensible engineering magazine publishers and editors when they are exposed to this Flash-based junkware.

The publishers try to make the magazine to look a magazine page: with excess white space, multiple columns, unnecessary page footers and page numbers. And usually the text is unreadable at full page size and you need to zoom in and scroll back and forth to read the article. Very annoying and not user friendly. And then there are those useless page-turning animations and idiotic “whooshing” sound that make magazine reading sluggish.

The problem is that I don’t want all that crap. I don’t want to start the reading by learning the bad interface to the magazine’s stupid e-reader. I want something that is fast, simple, and non-intrusive. Flash web sites do not give that. We can blame both Adobe and Flash site designers for that.

My advice to publisher: If you’re going to present the material online, present it in a way that takes advantage of HTML: content can be optimally displayed on many different kind of viewing devices.

I you can’t do that, offer a PDF file of the whole issue, so I can use my own machine to read that rather than having sluggish web interactions for every single page turn. Why is PDF not the default? Did we really need a proliferation of proprietary, inflexible, non-portable digital publication formats? No we don’t. Even thought the Adobe Reader and PDF stuff is far from ideal, it is better than this stupid Flash based magazine reader crap.

Some magazines have very well succeeded in putting their content on HTML readable form on web and also allow to download pdf version.

This posting was inspired by END blog posting that was once available at http://www.edn.com/blog/1700000170/post/170053817.html?nid=2433&rid=8103186 (but not anymore there..).


  1. Tomi says:

    It is nice that for example EDN manazine now offers also PDF download option in addition to stupid e-book flippy magazine format…

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  3. Barbara says:

    Some online magazines that provide a PDF version manage to ruin that too, by using two columns. Usually a two-column PDF is a bit easier than the loony “magazine” interface, but it still requires right/down/up/left/down to read each page.

    I do have a bit of hope. Another scourge of both print and online magazines seems to be waning a bit. I mean the practice of placing the text of an article over a picture, and then either varying the colour of the text to sort of contrast with the bit of the picture it’s over, or even worse, not worrying about how some of the text disappears because it’s the same colour as the background.

    But not much hope. The poor backgrounds were a choice of the magazine editors themselves, while the online formats are controlled by Someone Else. (Last time I complained to a magazine about their appalling online format, they said they weren’t responsible for it, since it was contracted out to another company.)

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