Walking away from Slashdot: a story of design

July 24, 2006

A while back I wrote about the two faces of RSS, in the process of which I held up Slashdot as an example of a site where I preferred the actual site to the syndication feed by a large margin, and why.

I have to change that, because Slashdot has lost me as a regular visitor to their website, and what Slashdot stuff I read nowadays is almost entirely through their RSS feed. It's for the traditional reasons: a website redesign that actually injected 'design'.

Slashdot used to show me the article text (the most important thing) in my preferred font at my preferred text size. In the redesigned Slashdot, they don't; instead they commit the most common problem of setting the important text in a reduced text size. They also force their text to be set in sans-serif (whatever that is in any particular browser), instead of my default font.

I can fix a too-small font size, but the problem is I have to keep fixing it every time around. And that's been enough to push me away, and since the Slashdot RSS feed is not really a good substitute I read a bunch less Slashdot these days. (Some people would say that this is about time, or long since overdue; personally it makes me a bit sad.)

(I am not interested enough to do something with Firefox's GreaseMonkey. Possibly some user CSS stylesheet magic would do it too; perhaps this will be an incentive to learn about that particular obscure Firefox feature. But really, Slashdot has persuaded me not to care.)

Slashdot isn't by any means alone in this sort of stuff; people do this to their websites all the time. At one level I can say I have no idea why, but at another level I suspect I do: people feel that the browser defaults are bad. (Are they? I don't know.)

Comments on this page:

From at 2006-07-24 15:12:40:

Firefox and other Mozilla-based browsers have a "minimum font size" setting that makes most of those sites readable again. The browser will not use fonts smaller than what you set. I have it set at 12pt.


By cks at 2007-02-24 19:30:12:

Department of belated replies: I finally got around to writing something about why I don't use the 'minimum font size' setting for this here (after losing track of this comment for, oh, most of a year).

From at 2007-07-07 19:23:59:

At one level I can say I have no idea why, but at another level I suspect I do: people feel that the browser defaults are bad.

I don’t know any other characterisation than “bad” for the choice of Times New Roman as the default serif and default font and Arial as the default sans serif.

But that’s not the entire reason. The rest is a response to a blinking twelve problem: you and I, as people who go through the trouble to configure the browser’s default fonts, are a vanishingly small minority. Most people browse the web with the eye-wateringly terrible defaults.

My first official act upon installation of a new browser (profile) is always to switch fonts to Verdana or Vera for sans serif and Georgia for serif and to make sans serif the default. I bet that if this were how browsers came configured, far fewer people would feel the need to impose other choices on their visitors.

Aristotle Pagaltzis

By gabor at 2022-10-14 09:54:40:

15 years later and I arrived here because I am so annoyed by the Slashdot font size. One of the worst style sheets I encountered for a forum.

Written on 24 July 2006.
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Last modified: Mon Jul 24 01:32:06 2006
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