Is there a design site with worse typography?

  1. Here are the declarations for body copy at Design Observer:

    font-family: helvetica, arial, sans-serif;

    So yeah: That’s Helvetica or fake Helvetica set solid on a widely deprecated px size (though such deprecations are almost irrelevant due to page zoom).

  2. Here are your heds (excerpted):

    font-family: arial;
    font-family: arial;
    color:#729fa7; [ochre]
    font-family: arial;
    font-weight:bold [absent semicolon sic]
    text-transform: uppercase;

    h5 and h6 aren’t defined.

    So: You’ve got mandatory Arial heds on your Helvetica (or, quite possibly, Arial) body copy.

  3. blockquote? Undefined.

  4. Paragraphs? Design Observer subscribes to the Microsoft Word school of “formatting”: Type some text, Return Return, type some more text, Return Return. Continue until end of document. This MS Word style is increasingly found in typeset books, viz most anything from O’Reilly.

    Two simple things you can do to improve onscreen readability, neither of which D.O. does:

    1. Reduce interparagraph spacing. (Having no space at all between grafs works poorly. I don’t understand the reasons why. It has something to do with skimming, I expect. But if you’re going to do that, you need giant leading.)

    2. Indent paragraphs following other paragraphs. You need but one single line of CSS to do it: p+p {text-indent: 2em;}.

      I’m aware that barely anybody else does this. That’s why you have so much trouble reading other people’s sites.

    Design Observer’s body copy looks like Netscape’s browser defaults circa 1997, except in a sansserif font.

Think of any of the standardista designers you see at Web conferences. Would any of them let this kind of CSS out of their own shops? Oh, but wait. Though Design Observer is run by a well-off cadre of established graphic designers, they refused to pony up for outside design services. Here, established print designer Jessica Helfand (again, married to one of the site’s owners) decided she was up to the task of a stem-to-stern Web redesign. Look how well it turned out. Should doctors really be diagnosing themselves?

Given that nearly 100% of Design Observer’s readership uses a browser capable of displaying them, why aren’t they using Webfonts of the @font-face variety? If ever there were a natural home, this would be it.

The entire feel is so banal I’m already bored talking about it. There’s so little actual “design” on the page that it mostly boils down to a splash of colour. The same colour. Over and over again.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.08.14 14:29. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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