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A Blue Perspective: Online dating

Online dating
13 March 2004

It's all well and good to have a fire in your belly over Web Standards, but sometimes it's the small things that make all the difference. The giant leap to Standards isn't the only thing that can improve the way a site works – something which I think we forget every now and then – so I'm going to share with you the biggest small thing that irks me whenever I browse. Dates.

Most of the Web is all about information. You go to Webmonkey (or at least you did) looking for that article on JavaScript; or you go to Intel's web site to find out about their latest chipset; or zeldman.com for beanie-related fashion tips. Because it's so easy to put information out on the Internet, every time you read a piece of information you are assessing (or you should be!) the credence of that information. We've all got trusted sources – weblogs from influential writers, product reviews from Tom's Hardware, news from the Widgiemooltha Morning Post – but sometimes you just have to take a lucky dip in the information ocean. When you do land on that random page, your information assessment sensors will go into overdrive. Any blinking text? Any links to "dubious" sites? Pink text on a green background? No. Okay, it's safe to read on.

Once a site has established its credibility, it's half way there – you reckon the information is probably correct. Okay, now is it useful? Joe Clark is quoted here as saying that "... accessibility is almost as poorly-known now as it was 2.5 years ago ...". So, it seems that accessibility is still in pretty bad shape ... but hang on, what does he mean when he says "now"? The article has no date on it. It could be from yesterday or it could be from five years ago. Accessibility could be poor or it might be good, who knows?

Apparently Melbourne is once again the world's most liveable city. Yeah, I'll probably trust Yahoo! News on that one ... but was the award for 2004 or 1958? As soon as you write something it immediately becomes part of history, and if the reader doesn't know whether they're taking advice from the 19th century then it seriously limits the usefulness of your writing. It's easy to do, so put on the date.

If you've got a pedantic gripe about web page design, get it off your chest and you'll feel all the better for it.

Comments

1/8. 13 March 2004 @ 03:52, Bart N. wrote:

Dates are very important.
I am considdering putting some text above my articles like ''This article is up-to-date: " + the current date.
Once the content gets old I could change the text to "This article has been out-dated since: " + date. This could become a fulltime job though if you have many articles on rapidly changing topics.

2/8. 13 March 2004 @ 05:54, Unearthed Ruminator wrote:

The other problem with dates (besides the lack thereof) is the date format. 03/12/04 can mean different things depending on where you are in the world.

That's why I use the dd mmmm yyyy format for everything (and the permalink filenames are usually yyyymmdd.html files for the most part), but then most of my content isn't too timely ;)

3/8. 14 March 2004 @ 09:16, Russ wrote:

Damn, I thought this was going to be strange and twisted tale about one of your online dating experiences. I feel so ripped off :)

Good points, though! Having a date on the page allows you to make judgements like "that was SO last week/month/year".

4/8. 14 March 2004 @ 14:39, Cameron Adams wrote:

Glad to see my misleading title revealed your voyeuristic tendencies Russ :-]

I use the full month name on this site to remove any ambiguity between the English and American shorthand date systems.

I'm thinking of starting a worldwide push for using scientific notation of date: YYYY-MM-DD. The good thing about it is that A) it's strictly hierarchical -- largest to smallest (what the hell is up with American dates? MM-DD-YYYY? No order!) and B) it automatically orders smallest to largest in plain text.

5/8. 16 March 2004 @ 01:21, Unearthed Ruminator wrote:

The W3C recommends the same format: http://www.w3.org/QA/Tips/iso-dateand
http://www.w3.org/International/questions/qa-date-format

6/8. 18 March 2004 @ 07:06, Hasan wrote:

A couple points on different topics, hope it's OK to post them both here. First, general web-design pedantic gripe: Am I the only one who thinks most fonts don't read well @ 0.8em? Verdana yes, Arial, Trebuchet MS, no! I'm not a trained designer, just a trained user, but...Man in blue has the nifty font-size selector, but what's with the hundreds (it seems) of blogs with tiny, tiny, fonts. Have I set something wrong on my PC (you all are Mac users, I know)? Second, off topic: You're hexagon world-map desktop is amazing! Thanks for letting me vent...

7/8. 18 March 2004 @ 23:17, Unearthed Ruminator wrote:

Hasan, I agree about the font issue, it can definitely be annoying. There are work arounds (pretty much every browser has ways to set things up to ignore font sizes or set a minimum size to display (in IE, it's under Tools -> Internet Options -> General Panel -> Accessibility; in Firefox, Tools -> Options -> General -> Fonts & Colors; in Opera you can always just increase the % on the page right from the toolbar).

All in all, though, pretty annoying for the end user. In my case (and for a lot of people I bet), I use relative font sizes (medium, small, etc.) which uses your browser preferences to determine what size to display the fonts at.

8/8. 20 March 2004 @ 19:48, Hasan wrote:

Unearthed, thanks for the tips, I just punch CTRL+ or CTRL- on Firefox as I like to keep my default settings intact. I would expect the majority of user's do the same(adjust each page with "text-size/ view text") and I want to see how my site looks to them (I've got it set so IE, FF and Opera all rendor the same initially). But what is everyone else making there decisions based on?

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