Comments on Week 2: CSS
I wrangle HTML and CSS for a living, so I used this week's assignment as an opportunity to play around a bit. The challenge I imposed on myself was to see if I could functionally change the page by modifying only the stylesheet and not the layout templates. (I did end up changing the HTML template a little bit, just to change the format of the date.)
So, I thought to myself: What makes a blog a blog? Its linear format, for one: the newest entry is always at the top and older entries proceed downward, in reverse chronological order.
This, however, is very different from other things that grow over time. We conceive of the written page, for example, as having older material at the top with newer material added at the end; in English, the left side of the page comes first and we proceed to the right side. One of the primary metaphors for time is the timeline, which is usually horizontally oriented, with older items on the left and newer items proceeding to the right.
In the pursuit of exploration, then, I threw out the existing stylesheet and started with this basic idea: float the entries left, so that they proceed from left to right instead of from top to bottom, like a timeline in reverse. I wanted to see what this would feel like from the perspective of both aesthetics and usability.
The results are mixed, I think. It isn't inherently less usable: you just have to press the right arrow to scroll instead of the down arrow. The horizontal layout encourages side-by-side comparisons of entries, which might reveal patterns in a blog's style and content that would be invisible in a traditional vertical layout.
Here's another consideration. A blogger using this layout would have to be economical about what they choose to put "before the jump." If the text overflows the vertical limits of the page, the browser might need to scroll up and down in addition to left-to-right, which seems a bit too much to ask. The paucity of text required on the front page could be a blessing—snappier entries—or a curse (lots of extra clicks to get to the real content).
My implementation of this idea has a number of loose ends, of course. Some of the templates still don't look right (the preview template for one), and I'm unsure of what to do with comments. I'm also dissatisfied with the amount of unused space in the layout. We'll see if the idea is worth pursuing further.