Improbable Island Message of the Day (MoTD)

Oh no I'm changing everything
Staff2021-03-15 20:40:15 [Permalink]
Edit 2021-03-16: The Beta skin now has a font selection menu accessible via a link at the top of the screen, next to the text size and colour scheme buttons. Original MotD follows.

Hey folks, I'm working on some changes to our default interface. If things look funky, hit CTRL-F5 or empty your browser cache to remedy it.

To cut a long story short, we're gonna change the font!

Or rather, we're gonna declare a font. Um. Because we hadn't. Not really. Not in the way that you might expect for a website made in the last ten years anyway.


Here's how the Island looks to Windows users. Back in the olden days, you couldn't just whack up a font on your webspace and expect Internet Explorer to use it, you had to choose from maybe half a dozen fonts that you could expect people to already have installed on their computers. Everyone was bored of Times New Roman (which is now cool and retro) and we wanted to use a serif font so people could tell an l from an I, so it was pretty much Georgia or Comic Sans.

This is still how the Island works today - if you don't have Georgia installed, the Island falls back to whatever default serif font your system or browser thinks is best.

Obviously this is bad because it means that people on phones, people on tablets, people on macs, people on linux boxes, pretty much everyone who isn't using a Windows laptop or desktop sees a completely different font. These days webmasters can upload a font to their webspace, set a CSS rule, and have browsers automatically use the font from the webspace, so we're no longer limited to using half a dozen fonts that pretty much everyone has on their machines, which is a good thing because the number of people browsing from Windows boxes is dropping quicker and quicker as people get increasingly pissed off with Windows.

So, now we can set an embedded font, and we're doing it, probably about ten years too late. This is how the Island looks using a font called Libertinus. It's a hair smaller than Georgia so we'll be scaling up the size maybe 10% before we actually go live with it.

There are a couple of really nice things about Libertinus in particular. First, it's open-source and free to use, whereas Georgia is a Microsoft thing. Second, it's not just a font but a whole font family - there are variants in sans-serif, monospace, keyboard icons (note the left-hand navs) and even fancy outlined capitals that we could use in page titles and stuff. Currently we use a mixture of sans for system messages (email confirmation, badnav resolution etc), serif/Georgia for normal text, and monospace (I think we even use Courier specifically in some places) for chat timestamps and other numbery things that change but need to take up the same amount of space on the page so things don't jump about around them. They all look pretty different! If we switched to using the Libertinus font family, then the different font styles we use on the Island would look more visually cohesive.

We could also pop a wee Javascript thingy to switch between serif Libertinus and sans Libertinus at the top of the page, like we do with the colour scheme and font sizes. Here's what the Island looks like in Libertinus Sans.

I switched to Linux pretty much immediately after building the Island's basic skeleton, and Linux doesn't come with Georgia, so I spent ten years never seeing how the Island actually looked to most people. It was only when someone said that they had a hard time telling between zeros and letter-O's, which look REALLY different on my machine, that I realised I dun goofed. Top fucking quality development right here, folks.

This (in the content side anyway, ignore the navs, I was mid-fiddle here) is how the Island renders on Firefox in Ubuntu Mate 20.04. Georgia is for windows boxes only, so mac users, iphone users, android users, BSD users and folks on their Fuck Yeah Internet Fridge will all see something different, and it's whatever serif font their system has arbitrarily decided is default.

This looks REALLY DIFFERENT to Georgia! As far as I can tell this is DejaVu Serif. It's a nice font but it's really heavy compared to Georgia or Libertinus.

The difference between this font and Georgia is much bigger than the difference between Libertinus and Georgia, so when folks in Banter mostly said, like, "Eh, it's pretty, it's a small enough change, I'll get used to it," I was really surprised because to me this looks WAY different.

Anyway, if you're on a desktop or laptop you can join the beta and preview the upcoming changes by switching your display skin to "Beta," via your Prefences, available in any Outpost. Or just click here and then close that tab and poke at any page on the Island. If you accidentally hit this link on mobile, or you want to return to default Horizontal, you can scroll all the way down to the bottom of the colour testing page and choose the mobile skin again.

Let me know what you think of the beta and have fun!

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