Sunday, September 27, 2009

Play That Funky Music, White Space

Stay out of my personal (white) space.

No, this is not a race thing.

I got a message from a friend via Facebook, asking for grammar advice. She was torn between "that" or "who" and had left a blank space in the sentence, which rendered as such in the e-mail transcription but not when I read the message on Facebook to reply to it. Which leads me to question: why are we still swallowing white space?

I program, and white space is about the only thing in the world that keeps code readable sometimes. It doesn't interfere--it's there purely to keep things visually organized. But most browsers just ignore it. If you're doing HTML (which is how most websites are ultimately displayed), then you have to use special tags for paragraph breaks, because the rendering engine ignores carriage returns.

Or does it? I don't know the mechanics, and it could possibly vary by browser--I simply don't know enough about how HTML works under-the-hood. But as an experiment I've indented one paragraph. My preview screen doesn't indicate which it was. How does it look on the page? Can you tell which one it was?

The point of all this is that eliminating white space used to make sense, but in a Web 2.0 world, I think it would be useful to get back indentations and such. Just food for thought.



Evan said...

In the original HTML specs, white space was deliberately stripped so that developers could format however they wanted and it would all display the same -- especially handy when no two developers could agree with how to format HTML and your average monitor ran at 640x480. The markup, then, provides all the formatting.

Anonymous said...

I don't see any indented paragraphs, but there is more space between your first sentence and second paragraph than between any of the other paragraphs.

I'm kinda torn on the whole whitespace thing in web 2.0 - I'm just so used to using certain code to create spaces where I want them that I guess it doesn't bother me.