Friday, July 18, 2008

Design versus information

I am increasingly irritated by websites that force a PDF down your throat because they want to "preserve the look of their design." Here's a great case in point. Our State magazine, a beautiful, photo-heavy monthly about North Carolina, used to publish a web-based, constantly updated listing of editorial plans and photography needs. I would pop it up on occasion, to see if I was interested in trying to shoot something worth submitting. (This is megalomania, but I enjoy my fantasies. Move along.) Here's the former link - a nice, clean web page.

Now, however, for no apparent reason, it's done in .pdf - which means I have to download a file, (cleverly named "photo.pdf"), hunt it down, open it and read it to find the same information. Maybe this is being done to act as gatekeeper - only the truly dedicated will stay with it. I fear, however, that it's likely either one of two things, both of which, as with all things not good, point back to Microsoft. Like the idiots control freaks who cannot deliver a message in email, but insist on sending it as an attachment, they are more concerned with the design of their message than with getting it heard by their audience. So those who get press releases or memos are left with dozens of files (usually Word, but, increasingly .pdf) in their downloads folder. Gah!

Or it’s due to people using Word to compose their email and sending it from there, so that anyone using any other system (ie - not Windows) will get it as a Word attachment. Is the content of your message really that dependent on your font choices and design? Can it not stand alone within the email program or web browser of your reader? That says something slightly negative about your abilities as a writer. (I know, I’m going to hear form designers who say the whole of the message, the gestalt, includes typeface, font size, column width, spacing and color, but really - do you need to force me to read your PR piece in your paragraph stylings? Usually these things are in fairly standard formats, but they have the company logo above the text.) And putting your data into pdf without an index effectively removes it from being read by anyone using a screen reader.

OK, I feel better now.

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