Subject: Re: The Aesthetics of Symbols (was Re: Uppercasing symbols)
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1998/12/09
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

* Tim Bradshaw <>
| And there's this wonderful stuff about margins &c.  It's fairly
| well-understood that, for paper, people like quite large margins, and
| there are reasonably good studies that show this (the typographer's rule
| I was taught is that a well-printed book should be 50% whitespace).  So
| someone came along (again, I read this but I don't have a reference,
| sorry) and looked at text on screens.  Most people use(d?) editors which
| have maybe a couple of pixels between the text and the border.  And this
| ought to be hard to read, and sure enough it is.  And he designed some
| editor which had nice big margins, and it was easier to read.  But he
| totally failed to realise that screen space is a seriously scarce
| resource, and you really want to get as much as you possibly can in that
| area, *especially* if you are programming, because you need to be able to
| see the code rather than scrolling around all the time.  So you sacrifice
| the margins for the text, because those pixels are expensive.

  I recommend the book Web Site Usability: A Designer's Guide, by Jared
  M. Spool (principal investigator), Tara Scanlon, Will Schroeder, Carolyn
  Snyder, and Terri DeAngelo, all of User Interface Engineering.  ISBN
  0-9660641-0-0.  available from  it's about how users behave
  in response to various web designs that you'd _think_ would be just
  great, but questions why you think so, and shows through serious empiric
  evidence how and why we think wrong.  (it also contains the comforting
  line "No engineers were harmed in the production of this book" on the
  colophon page. :)

| So really, I think that experience from the paper & natural language text
| world may be pretty irrelevant to things like reading source code.

  as it turns out, it is very _hurtful_ to the users to assume similarity
  between paper and screen, and between prose and code, because what's good
  for the users is anathema to the previous-technology schools of design.

  don't call people who don't understand statistics idiots.  take their money.