Several years ago I complained to a web shop web master about invalid character coding information in their web pages. I was told the invalid information was there intentionally so that the pages displayed correctly in a broken web browser which was used by 97% of their customers.
At another occasion I took seriously call for comments about the design of new web pages of another web shop. I complained that assuming particular screen size and resolution is not a good idea. I was told that most customers like these sizes and if it doesn’t fit my environment well then I can use a web browser loupe.
Last years I’ve been wondering why most web sites use small font sizes, thus making the text poorly readable by default. I was told it is because common web browsers used to use large fonts by default and web masters started to compensate this by reducing font sizes on their sites. This approach became so common that not using it today might make the given site look bad. Hmm. I can set a minimum font size in my web browser configuration but then many web pages get broken because of their layout dependent on a particular font size.
Well, maybe the idiots are not present everywhere. How about sites of institutions full of computer scientists and presumably educated IT professionals? Do they know anything about solving problems at the right places?
Looking at the front page of my alma mater I can see they assume particular screen/window size and they reduce font size significantly. They provide a style for low vision users which stops assuming particular screen/window size but which still sets its own font size (perhaps low vision users can’t set their own preferred font size because of all the web ignorance?). ACM pages don’t presume screen size but they still set very small fonts. So no success here.
My last hope are highly skilled free projects. I’m looking at Linux, Debian, GNU and Wikipedia sites. With the exception of GNU (using fixed layout) all the sites look basically civilized. Such a relief! There is still a few competent web masters. But will they survive?
As many applications move to the Web, we are going to face another disaster. After the disaster caused by the dominance of the inferior desktop operating systems pushed by a single company we can expect flood of incompetence coming from all directions. It was difficult but still possible to resist a monopoly of a single company. But how to resist the global viral effect of “fixing” problems by introducing new ones?