Having recently discovered Code4Lib Journal, I was fooling around with
columns as ways of making articles more interesting to read, perhaps
eventually on tablet devices:
Works best in (and in fact only tested on) Google Chrome on an iMac, but you
can try it out for yourself at http://lsta.me/code4lib/ ... all I've done is
mirrored the journal site and added some styles to the bottom of the
WordPress theme's CSS file. In theory you could apply such styles via a web
browser extension or user stylesheet to the website itself, live. But I
wouldn't recommend it without further testing and tweaks.
My main goal was to see if columns improved the reading experience on an
iPad, and the answer is definitely a "yes," because while I set the columns
too small, you still get a sense of where you are overall and can see
farther ahead with columns than when you zoom in on a single column webpage.
The trouble with automatic columns, however, are defining when the automatic
columns should break. So far, it's perhaps more trouble than it's worth in
CSS, but with any luck that might change 10 years from now.
It's funny how tablets in particular break our notions of page -- on
tablets, we want essentially resizable and reflowing text columns but with
fixed and pretty "page" layouts that we can navigate through. Consider
magazines on the iPad -- sometimes we want the pretty text and images, but
other times we want just text alone, or just images alone. And yet that
means coming up with natural ways to zoom in on text and images without
making the text unreadable or images blurry. It should be possible, but as
far as I know, no one's done it right, yet. Either it's a Kindle-style text
experience, or a magazine-style Image experience. I wonder who will mix the
two together, first? Inkling almost gets it right with textbook content, but
often feels like it's wasting space with its one-column infinite scroll
approach. Which brings me back to my original point, I think columns and
grids are crucial for helping people see more info at once.
Anyone else have any thoughts on this? I was thinking about turning the
Journal into an iPad/tablet app, given its Creative Commons license, but I
now suspect given my interest in columns, that I'd be laying it out in
InDesign first, like a real magazine, which might be too much work.