No More To Take Away

Antoine De Saint-Exupéry:

Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but no more to take away.

The only connection I have to Saint-Exupéry is his novella The Little Prince, which I was introduced to by Filippa Edberg, who I bumped into on a return flight to San Jose from a consulting gig in New York. I must say I enjoyed the book quite a bit, the English translated version. If you haven’t read the book you should.

Now, where was I? Yes, perfection. Saint-Exupéry’s definition of perfection resonated with what I was thinking of in terms my goals for DisplayBlog. I’ve been wishy-washy regarding the overall look and feel of this blog, but I think I’m getting closer to what I really want. The overarching goal for DisplayBlog is for it to be readable.

I don’t want you to be distracted. And that’s why I opted for a single column design. I think stuff on the left and right just get in the way. There are many excellent writings about which font is most readable. Some say that Verdana is easiest, but some others say fonts that are easy to read don’t stick around in your head for that long. At times I’ve used Verdana for the body text but I’ve decided on Georgia. Why? I think Instapaper, Readability, and Apple have done a lot of research trying to answer the question of, “What is the most readable font?” already. I won’t pretend to know better. It is interesting that all three use a serif font, in particular Georgia. There are now more font options for Instapaper, but when it first got started the default and only font was Georgia. Same thing for Readability. Apple’s Reader option (shift-command-r) on Safari also uses Georgia. I might be wrong about the exact font, if I am please let me know. So standing on the shoulders of these three giants, I chose Georgia.

But the font itself doesn’t make it easy to read. It can’t be too small. There are many many sites where the font is simply too small to read. So I chose a rather large font size. The default font size of the three tools mentioned above tends to be large, too. The large size goes well with the 600 pixel width of the single column. I’ve read that the optimal number of words in a given row of sentence should be around 15 or so. The logic goes like this: if there are too many words it becomes visually difficult to stay on that row of words. I also wanted a visual cue as to the textual boundaries. I didn’t want vertical lines so I chose to justify the text. Of course, simply justifying the text can leave a whole bunch of unwanted space. So I use a hyphenation plugin called wp-Typography. It isn’t perfect but it works quite well.

No more to take away. I started with the byline. I asked myself, “What information is absolutely necessary in the byline?” A while back I had Name, Categories, and Date. Before I had a couple of posts by other friends but decided that I’d like DisplayBlog to be my voice and my voice only. So there was no reason why my name should appear on every post. It’s obvious: all posts would be, “by Jin,” so I took my name off. Then there was Categories. It is convenient to click on say tablet and get all related posts, but was it really necessary? I don’t read other blogs based on categories nor do I google based on categories. I read based on the exact gadget name or the exact technology and google them that way, too. So Categories was gone. Left is just Date, and I think this is necessary. Although I would love to be able to write posts that are timeless, for now I think the date gives the reader, you, a context of time that is important. The byline I think is close to Saint-Exupéry’s definition of perfection: there is no more to take away.

Next was the menu. The menu was beneath the logo and there were three items: Home, About, and Resource. Resource was also known for quite some time as Database. I wondered if it was possible to get rid of the entire menu. The Home menu item was there because I couldn’t for the life of me get the header image to be clickable. This is still a big mystery using the Thesis theme that DisplayBlog is based on. I solved this problem by getting rid of the header image and instead using text, which is the Silkscreen font from TypeKit. The About item is now linked to my name in the footer. I shrunk down the footer from “Copyright 2010-2011 Jin Kim” to just “© Jin Kim”. I’m quite proud of being so textually frugal. Then I decided Resource wasn’t what I want DisplayBlog to be about. The Resource menu item had only one thing: IPS LCD Monitors. I’m sure it was useful to some but I realized I didn’t want to spend time updating the list anymore. If anyone wants to be in charge of updating the list get in touch with me. Now there is no more menu and no more to take away.

On the very bottom are three elements: search, a list of links, and a Google AdSense ad. I think everyone would agree that search is absolutely necessary. Then there are the list of links that are important to me. The first one is to my Amazon affiliate link . I don’t make a whole lot of money but I am deeply thankful to the few of you who have used the link to purchase items that you would ordinarily buy on Amazon. Thank you so much! The next three are links to excellent display resources. First is DisplayMate by Dr. Raymond Soneira. DisplayMate is an excellent source of detailed display test results and the company’s award-winning set of software tools. Second is Jutta Rasp’s FPExperts, a global display consultancy. If, for instance, you are setting up a LCD fabrication plant in India, Jutta can help. Third, Veritas et Visus by Mark Fihn. The newsletters thoroughly cover the flat panel display industry. Actually, thoroughly isn’t a thorough enough word. Finally, there is a 300×250 Google AdSense ad. The good folks at Google contacted me and informed me that this particularly sized ad is the most popular and lucky for me the size fits, not perfectly, but quite well. My hope is to one day be recommended to The DECK, which would replace the ad from Google. I could take away all of these at the end to get closer to perfection, but I hope you’ll understand that I do need to make a bit of money. And since these are located after you’re done reading the post, I hope they aren’t a distraction.

Update: In the quest toward a more content-focused DISPLAYBLOG, I’ve decided to remove all links. And Amazon Associates was terminated by Amazon. End of update.

Do these changes on DisplayBlog help you to focus on reading? I hope so. In the future, I am contemplating using less images and videos. The act of framing an object, taking a picture, and sharing it with you brings a lot of joy. I really enjoy the process, but I also know that some photographs are unnecessary. They also take up bandwidth, which is limited for some of you, and lengthen the time it takes to load this blog. But there are also times when no amount of words, not even a thousand, can explain what a single photo can. Same goes for videos. On the other hand as we move toward displays with higher densities, like the Retina Display used in the iPhone 4, only text and vector graphics will be able to take full advantage of them, another reason to focus more on text. So we’ll see. One thing’s for sure: I’ll be thinking of ways to get closer to having no more to take away. Feel free to send me your feedback.

PS: DisplayBlog looks best when viewed with WebKit-based browsers like Google’s Chrome and Apple’s Safari.