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abates
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Guys,

I'm hoping you can give me some advice. I know there are two (2.5?) camps in regards to fixed vs. liquid widths. While the liquid width definitely appeals to me more in the fact that it will scale nicely with a monitor, I think unless I come up with an entirely new logo, I am stuck with my 600 pixel content width. My site is using the same klunky html it has since I started the site about 10 years ago. I want to re-do it this winter as a sort of "cabin-fever" type project.

I have many graphics on the site that are "hard-coded" to be a certain width. If I go with a liquid format, it will ruin the feel of my site.

If you'd like me to post my URL please say so.

SO, my question is, should I simply stick width fixed width columns and forge ahead with my goal for a streamlined CSS site?

Thanks,
Art

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As far as I am concerned

As far as I am concerned there is no issue with having a static width site.
Make sure it can fit in a 800 wide browser and you shouldn't have any issues.

all » http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/all

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Hi, which means that you

Hi,
which means that you will actually style it with of width of 780px... and ofcourse, you can give a multiple stylesheet option. so if somebody has a bigger resolution, and he doesnt like the small resolution, he can surely switch to another stylesheet. SO you can do both, a fixed as well as a fluid layout without any issue.

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Ed Seedhouse
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Contra-wise, I always find

Contra-wise, I always find fixed width sites extremely annoying and they had better have content I really want and need if I'm not immediately to go elsewhere. Newspaper sites are almost all like that and that's why I read so few of them.

So I would say redesign your logo so isn't fixed in width, and make your layout liquid.

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mihirc
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Hi, i totally agree with

Hi,

i totally agree with Ed, news site are all the same, and so much content packed in one fixed layout, is really sad. I made a News-related site, a few days back, a nice fluid layout, but then the client didnt like it, and had to switch back to fixed, which was really depressing.

Anyways, as Ed says, or i suggested earlier, try using fluid layouts. ANd study the Faux Columns properly, cause sometimes if you miss a thing, all the items go mad, and its very difficult to fix then.

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abates
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Thanks guys, when I

Thanks guys, when I originally designed the site many years ago, I never took the fluid/static issue seriously. Therefore, built the site static and never thought about it until I started dabbling with CSS. Another major issue I have besides the logo, is a left column of about 50 links to different sections of my site as part of my static layout. This would either have to remain fixed, so that the layout remains tight and cohesive, or I allow it to spill out to wherever and have the links go anywhere. I'm seriously thinking I should stick with fixed. The site is a niche site, and has a very loyal group of people that I don't think would appreciate and/or understand the differences with a visually new or different website as opposed to the old. Ditto for my logo. I don't believe the benefits would be worth alienating those that have supported me for so long.

So, I guess if I thought that thru enough to justify one versus the other, I should concentrate on building the best damned fixed width layout I can.

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As a graphic designer who

As a graphic designer who knows the value of having every element work together in exacting visual balance and harmony, I will always be in favour of fixed width sites, as long as they fit within an 800px window. As you cannot control how the visitor changes the type size this can present a few problems, so I offer alternative type sizes of my own that work in conjunction with a scaling site width in order to give the best of both worlds but in a controlled way. Also, as an experienced typographer I know the problems of measures (line widths) that are too long to read comfortably. Totally fluid sites are always a visual disaster - the best answer nearly always lies in some sort of compromise.

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As a fellow graphic

As a fellow graphic designer, we seem to be on the same +ahem+ page Smile Good point on the line width. That hadn't come immediately into my mind, but would have upon the first instance of viewing the rendition of a fluid layout. My site also relies heavily on many, many groups of two small images being next to one another inside a fixed width container. I shudder to think how that would look fluid. As I mentioned above, my most serious issue would have been how I handle my logo graphic, which is an illustration with a definite beginning and end. Meaning, I couldn't simply lay a color background beneath it and let it ride to wherever the users viewport puts it. It would look horrible to the person with the wide monitor, and perhaps slightly "different" to those who know my site. Lot of great advice here guys. Thank you again..

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Well even with a mere 1280

Well even with a mere 1280 px wide screen, 800 px looks just silly to me. Especially with teensy tiny font sizes like 12 pixels. I just don't get how these look somehow "better" to anyone.

The web is naturally a flexible medium. Trying to fix it to one size seems to me an exercise in futility.

There is, to my mind, only one "constant", or rather tendency, and that is that people seem to set their default fonts to sizes they like or at least can live with, and their window sizes accordingly. If we set our fonts to the user's preferred default and let our widths flow to whatever the user has selected we are least likely to offend and drive them away.

I believe that a real artist (which excludes me) can use this to advantage, not disadvantage. It strikes me that may of the finest artworks are done in very limiting media.

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I'm definitely not a

I'm definitely not a world-famous designer, but I do remember while at school (a longggg time ago, I'm 41 now..perhaps my old habits are directly attributable to this) that I spent an entire semester learning about the inter-relation of graphic elements in a composition. Gestalt theory and all that. Graphic Design seems almost contradictory to a fluid based design. There doesn't seem to be enough control over the design. Fluid illustration is what the web needs. Illustration and type that scales to maintain the designers graphic vision, no matter what hardware format.

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Well if we can get over the

Well if we can get over the idea that a page has to look exactly the same in every browser then I think a real quality designer can still design a real quality web page.

But it always seems to take a few pioneering visionaries to show what really can be done with any medium before the rest of us lagalongs see the right direction to go in.

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Agreed!

Agreed!

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Ed Seedhouse wrote: Well if

Ed Seedhouse wrote:

Well if we can get over the idea that a page has to look exactly the same in every browser then I think a real quality designer can still design a real quality web page.

Ed - we've had this discussion before. A trained/experienced graphic designer is always going to attempt to control the look of a site or page as they value the visual balance of the end result. It is sometimes possible to design a fluid page that maintains that balance by using maximum and minimum widths and by limiting what goes where, but I've only ever seen two acceptable examples of such painstaking and brilliant work in my entire life! Personally I can't run a business by trying to charge for the true time that such efforts take.

The line measure issue is a serious one, that very definitely affects readability and thus usability. As I said above, a very skilled designer with time on their hands could possibly get round it within a degree of limitation, but otherwise this issue is a complete show stopper for those that know their subject.

And finally - as I've said before - from what I can gather, it is becoming increasingly popular to have a wide monitor but to set the browser window to about 800px in order to fit other interface windows on the monitor at the same time. This makes 800px a very popular 'preferred browser size' no matter what the trend in monitors is.

You're either a designer or you're not. You'll either favour fixed width sites or you won't. I respect people with the time and skills to build a compromise, and get REALLY angry with those whose sites scroll horizontally at 800px :mad:

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roytheboy wrote:Ed Seedhouse

roytheboy wrote:
You're either a designer or you're not. You'll either favour fixed width sites or you won't. I respect people with the time and skills to build a compromise, and get REALLY angry with those whose sites scroll horizontally at 800px :mad:

My point though, is that the medium is flexible by it's very nature and fixed width designs are attempts to get around that basic nature and are thus, I think, doomed to fail in the end. What happens to your 800px wide site when screen resolutions double or triple and screen sizes do likewise leaving maybe 9 times as much usable screen territory?

I agree that must be very frustrating to you if you are used to the control you have with fixed media, but I don't see the web as becoming fixed any time soon.

Line width is very important to readability, as you point out, but I think CSS provides sufficient tools to pretty much solve it with modern browsers.

If the user finds the line width too much he or she can reduce the window size, after all, and a properly designed flexible site will reduce the line width accordingly.

I am not saying that fixed width sites are necessarily bad sites, either. Content is still, in my mind, the number one most important thing about a site and great content can overcome poor design. Many of my favorite sites are like that, I go back to them because they supply what I want and need, pity about the visuals.

But when a site gives me information I need and want and also makes it easy for me to see and access that content I tend to go back rather more often. And I notice that the fixed width sites I go to do not do that very well. I go to them in spite of their design, not because of it.

I don't think the principals of good visual design need to be thrown out the window either. They just need to be adapted to a new and different medium that is, like it or not, fundamentally flexible in a way that other media are, in general, not.

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I have just started a new

I have just started a new job and my first task is to scrap the current sites and bring them under one site. So I am thinking, a few weeks down the line when I can actually get to the design stage, about liquid/fixed layouts.

I am all for a liquid layout as the laptop they have given me has a lovely 1920x1200 res! So 800x600 sites look silly.

Of course, I think a lot of it will depend on the new content but I am thinking of going for a liquid layout.

What is the best way then? Use a width of say 80%? and use em's within that?*

Or have the body size a em width, so the whole thing is scalable? Does that make sense... probably not :shrug: Laughing out loud

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Ed Seedhouse wrote:My point

Ed Seedhouse wrote:
My point though, is that the medium is flexible by it's very nature and fixed width designs are attempts to get around that basic nature and are thus, I think, doomed to fail in the end. What happens to your 800px wide site when screen resolutions double or triple and screen sizes do likewise leaving maybe 9 times as much usable screen territory?

I agree that different people have different window widths and a small percentage of people might view the site with larger than default text sizes, but beyond that the experience is fixed to the viewer.

When you sit in your lounge and watch the TV, does it annoy you that the 32" (or whatever) screen is 'lost' against the expanse of the lounge wall? Of course not. So why should it matter if an 800px site sits in the middle of a 1600px window? What difference does that make to the aesthetic design of the site as a visual unit which is the focus of the viewer? How does this detract from the usability or content of the site?

And like I said, just because someone has a large monitor, does not mean that they have their browser window at full size.

And what's the alternative? ...that the site logo is tucked up in the top left corner, the address in the top right, with various other elements floating around like islands in a vast ocean with vast 'bridges' of text trying to join them together! No thanks - I know the commercial importance of a page (web or print) looking like a balanced and cohesive whole.

Ed Seedhouse wrote:
I agree that must be very frustrating to you if you are used to the control you have with fixed media, but I don't see the web as becoming fixed any time soon.

It's not about 'control' per se - it's about aesthetic beauty and balance. The web IS fixed for visitors of my sites, unless they want to increase the text size using the controls provided, in which case they get an alternative fixed site with bigger text Smile

Ed Seedhouse wrote:
Line width is very important to readability, as you point out, but I think CSS provides sufficient tools to pretty much solve it with modern browsers.

Yes, which entails spending endless hours working out a layout with minimum and maximum widths and even then you soon hit a limitation of some sort, which then turns the site into either a fixed site or a complete visual disaster. Like I said, I don't have time for such niceties because my clients don't care about them so they won't pay for them.

Ed Seedhouse wrote:
If the user finds the line width too much he or she can reduce the window size, after all, and a properly designed flexible site will reduce the line width accordingly.

Ah - so you're happy to force the user to have to alter their window to suit your design! So who has the better approach now then?

Ed Seedhouse wrote:
I am not saying that fixed width sites are necessarily bad sites, either. Content is still, in my mind, the number one most important thing about a site and great content can overcome poor design. Many of my favourite sites are like that, I go back to them because they supply what I want and need, pity about the visuals.

"pity about the visuals" - you say that as though fixed width sites are the scourge of the internet because they leave a space in your window, and yet you clearly don't give a damn about visual balance. You're a strange one Ed Wink

Ed Seedhouse wrote:
But when a site gives me information I need and want and also makes it easy for me to see and access that content I tend to go back rather more often. And I notice that the fixed width sites I go to do not do that very well. I go to them in spite of their design, not because of it.

Fixed width sites still have to be skilfully designed if they are to look good.

Ed Seedhouse wrote:
I don't think the principals of good visual design need to be thrown out the window either. They just need to be adapted to a new and different medium that is, like it or not, fundamentally flexible in a way that other media are, in general, not.

Like I said in the first place, the best answer is some sort of compromise: fluidity in controlled stages, or within limits. I favour the former and respect those with the time and skills necessary for the later.

...but I still get angry at fixed sites greater than 800px!

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I agree Roy..from a

I agree Roy..from a designers point of view I don't believe this is as much a control issue than it is to communicate an idea. Certain elements need to go into a certain place at a certain time. I honestly can't fathom a universe where an illustrated magazine article, or imagine a T.V. commercial that allows such wanton disregard for structure. Of course, if we are talking purely text, with a simple headline, maybe a picture or two (even here we are talking about sacrificing design to accommodate the medium) then why even have design in general? I think this leads towards a communistic "one size must fit all" type of design mentality..that is, design is O.K. until it reaches a certain point. Because of the nature of the fluid layout, design in my opinion is secondary to product. In this scenario, it becomes web production, not web design. Just my opinion.

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roytheboy wrote:You're a

roytheboy wrote:
You're a strange one Ed Wink

Well, I can't deny it. But I'm afraid that to insist on ignoring the limitations of the medium because of one's previous experience in graphic design strikes me as equally strange.

Sorry, but the web just isn't the medium you seem to want it to be, and I don't think it's going to become the one you want anytime soon.

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Ed Seedhouse wrote:Sorry,

Ed Seedhouse wrote:
Sorry, but the web just isn't the medium you seem to want it to be, and I don't think it's going to become the one you want anytime soon.

In my world this just isn't the issue that you seem to suggest that it is. I create fixed width sites with an integral font/div width scaling tool. Plus I ensure that every site can take at least one increase in font size beyond default without breaking. As my primary product is a commercial ecommerce CMS which gets bespoke branding for every client, I have lots of sites in use by lots-and-lots of visitors and no-one has ever complained (user or client).

The web FOR ME is exactly the kind of medium that I want it to be: fixed, although I accept that people can break my designs if they ignore the tools provided for larger text and use more than one level of browser text scaling - which is still going to be a problem for most fluid sites being viewed in an 800px window. This has never been a major issue for me apart from in forum threads like this one.

It all comes down to the lesser of two evils - the pros and cons. The 'con' of my method is that a large increase in browser font scaling can break a site, but that is also true of fluid sites in smaller windows, so no difference there then. The other 'con' is that the site might have a space to each side if viewed in a large window - big deal, so what, that is hardly a major crime and is no more upsetting than viewing a TV against a lounge wall.

However, the 'con' of your preferred method is that design integrity and readability will be trashed for any window size other than that used as 'ideal' by the designer. To any trained or experienced graphic designer (and that discipline most definitely covers all mediums, including signage, vehicle livery, TV titles and the web, not just design-for-print) these are show-stopping issues that cut to the very core of everything that is important to the trained practitioner. It's like asking a dentist not to brush his teeth for a month, or asking a doctor not to treat her diseased husband. Design integrity is a big issue!

So, I'll say it one more time: either you're a designer and understand the issues of design integrity, or you're not. Either you think that a fixed width site is a no-brainer or you stand by the mantra of 'the web is a fluid medium'. I don't care what other 'designers' (term used very loosely) do, but I don't like seeing people blindly giving advice on this forum without understanding the issues, which you clearly don't (no offence intended - you're not a designer).

And I still have the utmost respect for the one person I have ever known (who used to be a mod on this forum) who was skilled enough to do a half-decent job of creating fluid sites with an acceptable loss of design integrity.

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Hi Ed,I'm going to jump in

Hi Ed,

I'm going to jump in on Roy's side on this (for the most part). You argue for liquidity to accommodate your wide screen, but seem to chafe at the idea of accommodating my narrow windows. You talk of a new design paradigm to support an elastic medium but forget that the human reader is hampered by lines of text that exceed ≈5½ inches in width at normal reading distances. It isn't always the designer that limits the design, there are the human usability issues, too.

Proper design isn't about filling the screen, it's about using the layout, color, illustrations and text to present the content to the reader in a prioritized order. Even more important to the user is the graphic design concept of affordance. That is the use of design to convey a visual clue to the function of an object.

Nowhere does a requirement to fill all available space come into play. If readability is important, i.e. proper line widths, there is no advantage in creating wide pages of text. There are serious disadvantages to creating designs that won't fit windows that the user prefers not to maximize.

cheers,

gary

disclosure: I'm not a designer, and can't make pretty worth a damn. But, I do know what graphic design is supposed to be doing for the usability of the page/site.

If your web page is as clever as you can make it, it's probably too clever for you to debug or maintain.

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kk5st wrote:Proper design

kk5st wrote:
Proper design isn't about filling the screen, it's about using the layout, color, illustrations and text to present the content to the reader in a prioritized order. Even more important to the user is the graphic design concept of affordance. That is the use of design to convey a visual clue to the function of an object.

I love it when you get technical Gary Wink ...good points well made Smile

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roytheboy wrote: In my

roytheboy wrote:

In my world this just isn't the issue that you seem to suggest that it is. I create fixed width sites with an integral font/div width scaling tool. Plus I ensure that every site can take at least one increase in font size beyond default without breaking.

Roy,

Could you please follow up on this idea by providing any reading directly related to your implementation of this feature? If you could private message a link to the site you've done this with, I'd like to see it.

Art

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abates wrote:Could you

abates wrote:
Could you please follow up on this idea by providing any reading directly related to your implementation of this feature? If you could private message a link to the site you've done this with, I'd like to see it.

I'm sorry but I will not send a link because I prefer to remain anonymous in my capacity as a moderator who sometimes has to chastise or ban some frighteningly weird people. Only Hugo knows for sure who I am and he is sworn to secrecy Smile

My style sheets contain all normal CSS rules except for a few grouped classes relating to text size and key div widths e.g. h1, h2, h3, p, .large, .small etc. for text, and .wrap, .sidenav, .topnav etc. for key divs.

I control these elements via hard-coded rules in the document head. On each page is a text size control offering four sizes of 'A' much like many other sites do. But my links change a URL variable which is carried throughout the site. My page script (because I use a CMS of my own making, all pages are derived from one script which makes this sort of thing quite simple) notes the value of the variable carried in the URL and prints out the text and key div size rules accordingly.

Doing it this way does not rely on JavaScript so bookmarked pages will maintain the visitor's preferred text size and visitors can also use the tool with JS disabled. It also means that I can scale headlines at a different rate to body text so that just because you want to increase the size of the body text, it doesn't mean that the headlines will be stupidly large. At the largest scaling the headlines might only be slightly larger in size than the body copy, which of course means that the overall site width does not need to scale at anything like the same rate either.

I can't show you any links to articles about it because I thought up the idea myself some years ago and have not seen it used anywhere else. All I can say is that it works very well Smile

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roytheboy wrote:I'm sorry

roytheboy wrote:
I'm sorry but I will not send a link because I prefer to remain anonymous in my capacity as a moderator who sometimes has to chastise or ban some frighteningly weird people. Only Hugo knows for sure who I am and he is sworn to secrecy Smile ...

I know who you are, too.

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No, I've got a better sense

No, I've got a better sense of direction than that. Somebody tell him that Jane is waiting for him in the jungle!

And I'm not a tree-hugger or a swinger!

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kk5st wrote:You talk of a

kk5st wrote:
You talk of a new design paradigm to support an elastic medium but forget that the human reader is hampered by lines of text that exceed ≈5½ inches in width at normal reading distances.

Well no, I'm not forgetting about the importance of the length of a line for readability. However five inches seems a bit suspect to me. If my letters have to be 50px high on a screen for me to even read them then five inches will be too narrow, I think. And the point is that we have no real control over that kind of thing.

Quote:
It isn't always the designer that limits the design, there are the human usability issues, too.

We agree, but to me this doesn't imply any necessity for a fixed design.

Quote:

Proper design isn't about filling the screen, it's about using the layout, color, illustrations and text to present the content to the reader in a prioritized order.

As I said above.

Quote:
Even more important to the user is the graphic design concept of affordance. That is the use of design to convey a visual clue to the function of an object.

I think that's a good idea but don't see the need for fixed widths to achieve it.

Actually, of course, a pixel sized design isn't fixed at all, since the size of a pixel is different on different screens.

Quote:
Nowhere does a requirement to fill all available space come into play. If readability is important, i.e. proper line widths, there is no advantage in creating wide pages of text. There are serious disadvantages to creating designs that won't fit windows that the user prefers not to maximize.

I agree with that entirely. I just don't agree that the pixel fixed width is a good way to achieve it.

Quote:

disclosure: I'm not a designer, and can't make pretty worth a damn. But, I do know what graphic design is supposed to be doing for the usability of the page/site.

I'm not against good graphics design at all, though as you say of yourself I'm not trained in it and can't do it very well. I just don't see that a pixel-fixed sizing has anything in particular to do with that, especially when the nature of the media is that it is flexible and that the end user has a lot of control and the designer's level of control is quite limited.

But it is really really annoying when a design is fixed at 800px wide with teensy-tiny print because when I resize that print so I can see it and the site width doesn't expand with ithe resizing,

the lines
all become
really really
short and
very hard to
read.

Ed Seedhouse

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Ed Seedhouse wrote:...I

Ed Seedhouse wrote:
...I think that's a good idea but don't see the need for fixed widths to achieve it ... I agree with that entirely. I just don't agree that the pixel fixed width is a good way to achieve it ... I just don't see that a pixel-fixed sizing has anything in particular to do with that...

Ed - I was going to leave it there but I simply have to voice the bleedin' obvious, which is that the reason that you don't 'see' any of these things is because you are not, by your own admission, a trained or experienced graphic designer. You are giving opinions about things which you clearly don't understand. Think what you like, but please don't be so blinkered when giving advice to others. Accept that graphic design is an important discipline which involves far more than just making a page look pretty ...please!

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roytheboy wrote:Ed - I was

roytheboy wrote:
Ed - I was going to leave it there but I simply have to voice the bleedin' obvious, which is that the reason that you don't 'see' any of these things is because you are not, by your own admission, a trained or experienced graphic designer. You are giving opinions about things which you clearly don't understand. Think what you like, but please don't be so blinkered when giving advice to others. Accept that graphic design is an important discipline which involves far more than just making a page look pretty ...please!

Well I'm happy to agree with much of the above - I certainly don't understand and know little about graphic design. But being a part of a particular discipline can also blinker our vision as well, and it is still a fact that the Web is not paper and isn't going to be. As the web is so flexible surely it behooves graphic designers to adapt their skills to this fact if they want to design for it.

Also I wonder how graphic design, however good, will help someone without site who is browsing the web with an audio browser, for instance.

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I think we've done this one

I think we've done this one to death now Ed. Hopefully there's enough informed opinion (from both sides) within this thread for people to read and make up their own minds about the issues. So that's good then Smile

abates - you've had your two pennies worth out of this forum for your question. Are you any the wiser now?

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roytheboy wrote:I think

roytheboy wrote:
I think we've done this one to death now Ed.

Yup.

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