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Design Matters, No Zen, Quark

June 12, 2003

A good design column, an eerily familiar concept, and reflections on Quark’s recent news.

Sherif Tariq has started an on–going column titled ‘Design Matters.’ The concepts he touches on are basic building blocks of design, and yet they’re too frequently overlooked by designers. Well worth a read. I’m particularly fond of his demonstration of white space. §

And from the odd coincidences corner comes news of a project similar to the Zen Garden, both in theme and intent. Ken Boucher’s NoZen has apparently been around for a few years, and exists as a place to “get lost in the moment.”

Offering a smattering of koans, or musings as you may prefer, NoZen also allows the user to change his or her style sheet while browsing. The call is made for users to submit their own, too. Similar projects revolving around a Zen theme — how very, um, Zen–like. §

So we’ve got Wired, ESPN, and now Quark. Coupled with the recent announcement of QuarkXPress 6 for OS X, Douglas Bowman has discovered their site’s redesign was done in valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional and CSS. Another beautiful CSS–based design to add to the ‘good list’.

XPress and Adobe’s InDesign are page layout programs. The ability they offer in positioning text and imagery on the printed page is very similar to the way CSS is used to position those elements on a web page. If you consider absolute positioning and hard pixel values for everything, though arguably not the best way design for the web, the two methods are virtually identical.

Will Quark’s web development team recognize this after their experience redesigning the site, and convince the product development team to make a push towards CSS–exporting options in the next version? Empowering print designers, who often just don’t get the web, would start a new trend in high–end CSS–based design.

These are the people that expect a site to render with nary a pixel out of place. These are the people that still need convincing the web doesn’t have to be a mess of single–pixel spacer GIFs and horrendously complex tables. If Quark or Adobe can make publishing a visually solid, standards–based web site as easy as a printed brochure, from the same program, then designers don’t have to be convinced; they will just start doing it.


A final note on Quark’s site: they fall susceptible to a minor oversight that a lot of designers still miss today. Their body background colour is left to the browser’s default, though it should obviously be white. When an attentive (retentive?) user like me comes along who has purposely set his browser’s default background to a glaring yellow, this bug has a tendency of being rather annoying. §

Reader Comments

June 12, 03h

When an attentive (retentive?) user like me comes along who has purposely set his browser’s default background to a glaring yellow, this bug has a tendency of being rather annoying.

That is a good idea for web designers, especially since some (Linux) versions of Netscape/Mozilla have a gray background by default. Quickly reminds you to add the background-color:#fff style to your site.

Dave S. says:
June 12, 03h

Precisely why I do it. I can’t remember who I picked up the trick from, but it’s amazing how many pages render mostly yellow. It’s almost cumbersome to browse that way.

paul says:
June 12, 05h

i see quark’s site uses’s js for the dropdown menus, a fav of mine for years. sweet!

Kevin W says:
June 12, 10h

So we’ve got Wired, ESPN, and now Quark.

Don’t forget Opera’s site, which is interesting because it is a large database driven site where legacy browser support is crucial.

andrew hill says:
June 13, 08h

surprised you missed Cingular wireless in your W3C CSS XHTML Thingie… Zeldman wrote about it in April.

Dave S. says:
June 13, 08h

Well, the difference between a comprehensive list and a quick reference isn’t entirely subtle, but yes, there are far more sites out there that have made the switch. Meryl’s list is a good starting point.